- Mug Shot Monday: Willie Williams, No. 17280


Photograph of Willie Williams, No. 17280, Escaped Inmate Card, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 42, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary. Willie Williams’, the subject of this week’s post, unruly behavior led a State Convict Road Force (SCRF) officer to shoot him in 1934.

Willie Williams was only 16 years old in August 1921 when he was convicted of housebreaking and sentenced to three years in the Virginia Penitentiary by the Richmond Circuit Court. Williams was then assigned to State Convict Road Force Camp 21. He was not a model prisoner. He was punished three times prior to his escape on 20 June 1923.


Letter from Sgt. M.C. Russell, dated 1 January 1934, to Superintendent R.M. Youell, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Box 527, Folder 6.

Williams was on the run for over nine years. After his recapture on 1 August 1932, Williams was assigned to SCRF Camp 15 in Wythe County where he continued to be disruptive. In 1933 alone he was disciplined three times for fighting with other prisoners and once for talking back to one of the guards. For each infraction his punishment was standing in cuffs for several hours. By the end of the year, SCRF Sgt. M.C. Russell had had enough. On 30 December 1933, Williams claimed he was sick and refused to work. A doctor’s examination found Williams fit and able to work. When informed of the doctor’s findings, Williams said “this was a hell of a … read more »

- Westmoreland County Cohabitation Registers Now Online


By Ser Amantio di Nicolao at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24289276

Last summer, the Westmoreland County Circuit Court Clerk Gwynne Chatham contacted the Library of Virginia concerning old marriage records that staff discovered in her office. After she read the title of one the records, it was clear that she had found the Westmoreland County Cohabitation Register. Ms. Chatham read the title of another group of records which proved to be the Westmoreland County Register of Children of Colored Persons. As former local records archivist Sarah Nerney pointed out in a previous Out of the Box entry about Augusta County cohabitation registers, these “are among the most important genealogical resources for African-Americans attempting to connect their family lines back through the murky past to their enslaved ancestors.” The registers, which in the case of Augusta County dated from 1866, “provide a snapshot in time for the individuals recorded therein and provide a wealth of information that may otherwise be impossible, or at least very difficult, to uncover.”

The original Westmoreland County register pages were transferred to the Library of Virginia for conservation and scanning. A comparison of pictures taken before and after conservation reveals the improvements made to the time-damaged documents. Library of Virginia conservator Leslie Courtois dry cleaned the paper surfaces, flattened creases and crumpled edges, then repaired tears and losses with Japanese tissue and de-acidified the document. Both registers are now available digitally with searchable … read more »

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- Here We Go A-Caroling

The Out of the Box bloggers will be taking a break for the holidays, but we’ll be back in the new year! In the meantime, enjoy this sheet music produced by the Hotel Richmond in the early twentieth century, part of the Library’s Special Collections. It and many other items can be found in our digital collections.

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- Mug Shot Monday: William H. Oehlert, No. 11708 and 17831


Photograph of William Oehlert, No. 17831, Escaped Inmate Card, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 43, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday! This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary. William Oehlert had a lengthy criminal record, a history of escapes, a love of shooting guns, and was one of the worst behaved prisoners in the Virginia Penitentiary – until his incarceration finally broke him and he became a model prisoner.

William H. Oehlert, the son of German immigrants, was born on 21 July 1884 in Alexandria, Virginia. His father, August Oehlert (1851-1914) was a cigar maker and Alexandria’s police commissioner. Oehlert’s first known brush with the law occurred in January 1905, when he was arrested in Alexandria on suspicion of robbery. The case was dismissed but other arrests in Alexandria soon followed:

  • March 1905 – arrested on suspicion of robbing freight cars. Case dismissed due to lack of evidence.
  • January 1910 – arrested on suspicion of robbery. Case dismissed due to lack of evidence.
  • September 1911 – arrested for assault and fined $10 for creating a disturbance.
  • August 1912 – arrested for transporting stole goods. Charges dropped.
  • August 1912 – charged with stealing a spark coil from a Southern Railway Company freight car. Acquitted.
  • January 1913 – arrested for assaulting his brother-in-law A.E. Smoot and shooting a pistol in the street. Fined $10 for assault.

In October 1912, … read more »

- Electoral College Digital Collection Released


Certificates of Vote and Ascertainment for President and Vice President of the United States, 1948 December 13. Virginia. Secretary of the Commonwealth, Executive Papers, Box 1293, Folder 3, Accession 24938, State government records collection, The Library of Virginia.

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the release of the Electoral College Digital Collection. The Library has a variety of records scattered across several collections (Secretary of the Commonwealth, Office of the Governor, Virginia General Assembly, and State Board of Elections) related to the Virginia Electoral College from 1789 to 2012. The Electoral College Digital Collection brings all of this material together in one place and makes it accessible online.

As we all learned in our high school government class, the President and Vice President are officially elected by the Electoral College. Under this system, established by Article II and the 12th Amendment to the United States Constitution, voters in each state on Election Day are actually choosing a candidate’s slate of electors to serve in the Electoral College. Under Chapter 1 of Title 3, United States Code (62 Stat. 672, as amended), the Electoral College meets and votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. The 2016 Electoral College will meet on 19 December in the Virginia Capitol to cast Virginia’s 13 electoral votes for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.

Some of the highlights of the collection include: the returns for the election of George Washington in 1789 (discovered by archivist Craig Moore when he processed the records of Governor Beverley Randolph); the Journal … read more »

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- Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941


USS Arizona, FDR Presidential Library and Museum, Pearl Harbor Historic Materials, Pearl Harbor Photographs, https://fdrlibrary.org/ph-historic-materials

“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” With those words, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. Millions of Americans learned about the attack and heard the president’s speech on radio. For most people in central Virginia, they learned the news from listening to Richmond’s WRVA.

Listen to a clip of WRVA’s coverage of the Pearl Harbor attack and “Day of Infamy” speech.

This recording is part of WRVA 50th Anniversary Vignettes program which aired in 1975. To learn more about the WRVA collection at the Library, please consult the finding aid. Further information about the history of Radio in Virginia can be found in this on-line exhibition.

According to the Library’s Virginia Military Dead Database, at least 40 Virginians died on 7 December 1941. The primary purpose of the Virginia Military Dead Database is to honor those Virginians that have given their lives in defense of freedom. It pulls together information from a wide variety of sources and makes that information more accessible. For more information consult the Introduction to the Virginia Military Dead Database and the Source Guides.

 … read more »

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- Library Makes New Batch of Emails from Governor Timothy M. Kaine Administration Available Online


Senior Advisor to the Governor for Workforce Daniel LeBlanc (2006-2010)

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the release of 10,441 emails from the administration of Governor Timothy M. Kaine (2006-2010). This latest batch comprises emails from individuals in the Office of the Senior Advisor to the Governor for Workforce. Included are the email boxes of Daniel LeBlanc, Gail Robinson, Brian Davis, Marietta Salyer, Beatrice Young, Sarah Abubaker, and Patrick Callahan. Since January 2014, the Library has made 156,188 emails from the Kaine administration freely available online to the public.

The primary responsibility of the Office of the Senior Advisor to the Governor for Workforce was the development and implementation of the Commonwealth’s first ever Strategic Plan for Workforce Development. The office also worked across secretariats to achieve consensus on a State Partner Memorandum of Understanding for Comprehensive One Stop Centers, a landmark directive for workforce service delivery in the Commonwealth signed in March 2008. This document clearly delineates the specific requirements of state agencies and programs towards the creation and support of a workforce development system that operates effectively in a one stop environment with a primary focus on serving citizens and employers in an efficient manner. For the complete picture, you will need to jump into the collection and start digging. The archived web site and Cabinet Weekly Reports of the Office of the Senior Advisor provide additional information on its activities.… read more »

- The Value of a Man: The Muse Brothers of Franklin County


Truevine book cover

People looked at the Muse Brothers, Georgie and Willie, and saw something different. Some saw objects of pity. Some saw objects of ridicule. Some saw dollar signs.

Author and former Roanoke Times journalist Beth Macy (Factory Man) explores the harrowing story of two albino African American brothers, the children of a sharecropping single mother, from rural Franklin County. Family oral history tells of the boys’ abduction around 1903 by “freak hunters” for one of the many circus outfits touring around the country at the turn of the 20th century.

Between 1840 and 1940, the circus was the most dominant form of entertainment in the United States. Georgie and Willie Muse appeared as “freaks” in the sideshows of several circuses with only the sparsest room and board as their pay. They were dubbed the Sheep-headed Men, White Ecuadorian Cannibals, and Martian Ambassadors. The brothers had no say in their working conditions, employers, or compensation. They later claimed in court documents that they were held against their will “and in other words…made…slaves.”

After accidentally being found by their mother, Harriett, when the circus came to Roanoke in 1927, over two decades after their disappearance, a lawsuit was filed on the brothers’ behalf in City of Richmond Law & Equity Court. The court documents survive in the archives of the Library of Virginia and were … read more »

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- Mug Shot Monday: John Henry Green, No. 44916


Photograph of John Henry Green, No.44916, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 238, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary. John Henry Green, known as the “Singing Ice Man,” murdered his wife and sister-in-law after a quarrel in 1941.


Marriage Certificate of John Green and Thelma Pointer, married 30 June 1938, Ancestry.com. Virginia, Marriage Records, 1936-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

John Henry Green, age 17, married 16-year-old Thelma Pointer on 30 June 1938 in Richmond. Green worked for the Richmond Ice Company. He was well known for singing on local radio programs and while he worked delivering ice and coal. By 1941, the couple was estranged. On 9 February 1941, Thelma and Dorothy McClure, Green’s sister-in-law, went to Green’s home at 1205 West Leigh Street to beat him up. When Green opened the door, the two women attacked him. Green pulled out his .38 caliber pistol and shot each woman once in the head. Thelma died instantly; Dorothy the next morning. Witnesses stated that after the shooting, Green casually left his home and walked to the police station to turn himself in.

Green was found guilty of manslaughter on 1 April 1941 in the Circuit Court of Richmond and sentenced to two five-year consecutive terms in the Virginia Penitentiary. He was paroled on 18 June 1945.

Twelve years later history repeated itself.  On the evening of 7 February 1953, Green got into an argument with John French and his sister, Katherine … read more »

- Three Elections That Remade Virginia

Editor’s note: Tomorrow is Election Day! Get out and vote!

For well over half of the 20th century, Virginia state politics was dominated by a conservative Democratic machine, which was perfected by the organization of Governor and U.S. Senator Harry Byrd. The Byrd Organization drew its strength from rural counties, benefitting from a state constitution and laws that depressed voter turnout by effectively disenfranchising African Americans and poor whites. By the end of the 1960s, this changed. Laws restricting voting based on race were lifting, the urban and suburban populations were rapidly increasing, and the state’s Republican Party was expanding. In 1969, the GOP broke the Democratic monopoly on state office by electing Linwood Holton governor.

 

The 1973 gubernatorial race highlighted these changes. Lieutenant Governor Henry Howell ran as an independent candidate by choice, receiving the commendation of the state Democratic Party. The party’s nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general remained neutral in the campaign, not endorsing Howell. The state Republican Party was in more disarray. Constitutionally unable to renominate sitting Republican Governor Holton, the party had no candidate to oppose the popular yet liberal Howell. Desperate, Republican leaders turned to Mills Godwin, last of the Byrd Organization governors, hoping that he would secure conservative Democratic voters dismayed by the state Democratic Party’s liberal shift. Godwin reluctantly accepted the Republican … read more »

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