Tag Archives: business records

- The Business of Racism

Business letterhead can offer a fascinating snapshot of a place or time. A striking example appeared in the Rockingham County chancery causes recently. In the case of Ridgemont Cement & Manufacturing Company vs. Manly Manufacturing Company, 1900, there is a piece of Manly Manufacturing Company letterhead dated 1 March 1895 featuring an image of stereotypical 19th-century African American caricature behind bars. Shocking to our 21st-century sensibilities, this type of advertising was very common beginning in the Victorian era. Caricatured images of African Americans and other minorities were commonly used to sell products because they capitalized on existing beliefs and, ultimately, reinforced existing prejudices.

Manly Manufacturing Company billed itself as “The First and Only Steel Jail Works in THE SOUTH.” Headquartered in Dalton, Georgia, the firm was originally Manly & Cooper, a foundry responsible for casting, amongst other items, the ornamental fence surrounding Thomas Jefferson’s gravesite in Charlottesville. Relocating from Philadelphia to Dalton in 1887, the company developed “Manly Portable Convict Cages,” horse-drawn, steel-wheeled cages to house prisoners working on outdoor projects. The cages became one of its best selling products.

A quick Internet search revealed that Manly Manufacturing is still in business today, 121 years later, as Manly Steel.

The Rockingham County chancery collection contains 534 Hollinger boxes or about 250 cubic feet of records. It is currently being processed … read more »

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- Volumes Provide a Rare Glimpse Into the Life of Slaves at Furnaces

The inside back cover of the Etna Furnace Negro Book was used to record infractions and disciplinary actions.

In July 1814, entrepreneur William Weaver made a chance investment in the Virginia iron industry along with his new partner, Thomas Mayberry. Weaver and Mayberry purchased Union Forge (later renamed Buffalo Forge), located in Rockbridge County, and two blast furnaces, Etna Furnace and Retreat Furnace, in neighboring Botetourt County. Later, Weaver would become a prominent and successful ironmaster in Virginia and one of the largest slaveholders in Rockbridge County.

Initially, Weaver staffed his furnaces with a mixture of white laborers and hired slaves, but in October 1815 he purchased 11 slaves. Weaver would use this group of slaves, which included a valuable ironworker named Tooler, to form the basis of his large crew of skilled ironworkers.

In 1825, Weaver filed a chancery suit in the Augusta County courts to dissolve his partnership with Mayberry. It was a rather acrimonious dissolution, with contention over who owned the slaves purchased in 1815. In a cagey move, Weaver had the bill of sale for the slaves made out to himself, rather than to the partnership of Weaver & Mayberry, claiming that Mayberry was against slave ownership. While examining volumes found at the Augusta County Courthouse, I discovered nine volumes belonging to Weaver and his iron interests, which had been used as exhibits in the case.

The volumes cover a variety of topics and document the purchases Weaver and … read more »

- We can’t all age gracefully

 Architectural model of the Richmond Coliseum

The fate of the Richmond Coliseum has been in question recently, with the city soliciting input from business leaders, local officials, and a consulting firm to determine what comes next for the much-maligned structure.  Should the city continue to keep it limping along with costly repairs as needed, do a large-scale renovation, or demolish it in hopes of building a flashier replacement?  Which of these options is best for Richmond, and where will the money come from?  Alas, the Out of the Box bloggers can’t answer these questions for you.  We can only lament on behalf of the near-40-year-old Coliseum, “What a drag it is getting old!” 

Here at the Library of Virginia, however, there are reminders of how it all began, when the 13,500-capacity arena was the pride and joy of Richmond native and architect Ben R. Johns, Jr. (1922-2006).  In 1968, Johns was tapped as the primary architect to work with the Philadelphia firm of Vincent G. Kling and Associates on the Coliseum project.  While today the building has its share of detractors, back then it had at least a few admirers.  As a result of the Coliseum design, Johns was recognized by the Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1974 and the Richmond Planning Commission in 1975.

In 2007, the year after Johns’ death, a collection of his business … read more »

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- Reuse, recycle…

One of the receipts removed from the account book.

During the Civil War, the scarcity and high cost of writing paper often led people to reuse it. They wrote new letters across existing ones, made account books from old ciphering books, and turned ledgers into scrapbooks. In cases such as these, it is not unusual for archivists to find records that are more than what they appear at first glance.

One such example exists in the Henkel Family Business Records (Acc. 28040), a collection of 137 volumes related to the family’s general store, farm, and mill businesses in New Market, Virginia. While processing the collection, I came across an L.P. Henkel and Brothers account book, 1869–1872, containing business receipts pasted over handwritten text.

The Library of Virginia’s conservation lab removed each receipt, conserving both the receipts and the ledger pages beneath. This process uncovered a Civil War-era register, 1863–1865, listing conscripts from the 10th Virginia Congressional District (Clarke, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun, Prince William, and Warren Counties), with entries for name, age, occupation, physical description, date and place of enrollment, and company assigned. Also included were special orders regarding enlistment and assignments written from headquarters in New Market and Winchester, Virginia. Thanks to careful conservation, these formerly inaccessible records may help researchers uncover more about their own ancestors’ stories.

The original account book and receipts remain with the Henkel Family Business Records. The … read more »

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