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By Kyle Rogers, VNP intern
The Virginia Newspaper Project is happy to announce its collaboration with St. Catherine’s School in Richmond to film and digitize three of the historic school’s newspapers—The Scrap Basket, Odds ‘n’ Ends, and Arcadian—now available online on Virginia Chronicle. Founded in 1890 and owned and operated by the Episcopal Church Schools Corporation, St. Catherine’s is the oldest private, all-girls school in the City of Richmond. It serves girls age three through grade twelve, and its three independently published newspapers collectively span over ninety years of the institution’s history. Readers can follow the hyperlinks embedded in the following paragraphs to go directly to available issues of each of St. Catherine’s newspapers on Virginia Chronicle.
Twenty-one issues of St. Catherine’s oldest paper, The Scrap Basket (pub. 1927-40), that cover the years 1930–1940 are available for reading on Virginia Chronicle. The Scrap Basket is a utilitarian but endearingly whimsical publication that kept St. Catherine’s students apprised of the latest events and developments at the school. On the front page of the 1 November 1930 issue, for example, the editors noted recent architectural changes around St. Catherine’s, reminded students of the strict criteria for celebration in the school’s Hall of Fame, and praised the theater department’s much-celebrated performance of “Alice-Sit-By-The-Fire.” With separate sections for the Lower School, Middle School, and the athletics department, The Scrap Basket offered interesting reading for students of all ages, grade levels, and affiliations. Editorial columns written by the paper’s editors (Upper School students) helped inculcate St. Catherine’s hidden curriculum in younger readers:
Do you ever wonder why you go to boarding-school … Have you ever realized just what you are doing here? “Learning lessons,” … read more »
By Kyle Rogers, Virginia Newspaper Project intern
During my research so far this summer for the Virginia Newspaper department’s continuing project in collaboration with Cornell University, Freedom on the Move, I have already found and collected over one-hundred fugitive slave advertisements from historical Virginia newspapers. Most notices concerning runaway slaves follow a boilerplate format, but a few particularly unusual and fascinating ads have caught my eye. The most extraordinary of these were posted in the Alexandria Gazette by one John Wilkinson of Fairfax County, VA, during the winter of 1814:
I titled this blog post “Stealing Freedom” in reference to the complex legal significance of slaves’ self-liberation in the early-nineteenth century, when these advertisements were printed. By law in states where slavery was legal, enslaved Africans were the property of their masters, so for a bondperson, running away was tantamount to stealing oneself. A forty-year-old slave named Humphrey did just that on or about 12 October 1814, when he ran away from his enslaver John Wilkinson, probably to seek refuge with his wife in Alexandria. Wilkinson paid the Alexandria Gazette to republish his notice several times, but evidently to no avail; Humphrey had successfully escaped, at least as far as the historical record can confirm.
Humphrey’s self-liberation is, in itself, a historically significant act of resistance to the institution of slavery, but his story grew even more astonishing two months later. On December 15, Wilkinson posted another advertisement to alert the public that his house had been broken into by none other than Humphrey, his former slave. According to Wilkinson’s notice, Humphrey had only stolen one thing: his eight-year-old son, Thornton. Humphrey risked his life not once, but twice, to not only liberate himself but also to rescue his young son from bondage and, thereby, reunite his fractured … read more »
By Kyle Rogers, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern
Thursday, June 6, marks the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of the beaches of Nazi-occupied France on D-Day. In honor of the sacrifices made by some 200,000 American, British and Canadian soldiers who were wounded or lost their lives between 6 June and 21 August 1944 during the Normandy Campaign, the Virginia Newspaper Project wished to recount the story of Operation Overlord and its historical importance to the United States from the perspective of the residents of Bedford, a small town in central Virginia. For those who have not visited “The World’s Best Little Town,” Bedford serves as the seat of Bedford County and the location of the National D-Day Memorial.
Why was a small town in central Virginia chosen as the site of the national memorial for American D-Day veterans? Contemporary issues of the Bedford Democrat—recorded on microfilm in the Library of Virginia’s holdings—help us to understand why. Bedford, whose 1944 population was approximately 3,200, contributed thirty-four soldiers to the National Guard’s 116th Infantry Regiment, which took part in the amphibious landing on Omaha Beach during Operation Overlord. Although the invasion of Normandy began on June 6, it took over a month for the Bedford Democrat to receive and begin publishing news of the Allies’ victory and the status of its hometown heroes, known as “the Bedford Boys.”
Bedford Democrat 13 July
In its 13 July issue, the Bedford Democrat published a letter from Capt. J. K. Walker, Jr., to his parents from France on June 28. In his testimony, under the headline “Plans For Great Invasion Complete In Every Detail,” Walker related that he was safe in France, and that Operation Overlord, although “almost impossible to describe in its complexity,” had gone off without a hitch. He … read more »
By Gregg D. Kimball, Library of Virginia
The close of the American Civil War brought two young men back to a devastated Shenandoah Valley and an uncertain future. Aldine Silliman Kieffer had joined the Tenth Virginia Volunteer Infantry and campaigned with the Army of Northern Virginia until his capture and imprisonment in 1864. Waiting to greet him on his release from Fort Delaware was his brother-in-law and friend, Ephraim Ruebush, who had served in the Union Army. The war divided many Valley families, but Kieffer and Ruebush put the past aside and renewed their friendship.
Before the war, both had worked for Kieffer’s grandfather, the pioneering Mennonite music publisher and singing master Joseph Funk. Now Funk was dead and the business lay in ruins. These two men would revive Funk’s legacy and build a company that was the foremost publisher of sacred shape-note books in the nineteenth century South: the Ruebush-Kieffer Company of Singer’s Glen and later Dayton, Virginia, in Rockingham County. To honor that legacy, the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Chronicle website has launched a fully searchable run of the company’s music journal —The Musical Million: A Journal of Music, Poetry, and Chaste Home Literature. We give special thanks to Eastern Mennonite University and Simone Horst for facilitating the digitization of their copies of the journal. The Musical Million spread the Gospel of congregational shape-note singing far and wide and laid the groundwork for the proliferation of singing schools across the South.
Shape-note hymnody came about because of a practical problem—Protestant denominations became convinced that the people of the church should praise the Lord through song, but how to accomplish this end was uncertain. Churchmen had long puzzled over how to lead congregational singing among the untutored and often illiterate. The first solution … read more »
From Virginia Chronicle, One Century Ago: Three Dailies & Four Weeklies Report the End of the Great War
“It was a few minutes before the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. I stood at the window of my room looking up Northumberland Avenue towards Trafalgar Square, waiting for Big Ben to tell that the War was over. . .And then suddenly the first stroke of the chime. I looked again at the broad street beneath me. It was deserted. From the portals of one of the large hotels absorbed by Government Departments darted the slight figure of a girl clerk, distractedly gesticulating while another stroke of Big Ben resounded. Then from all sides men and women came scurrying into the street. Streams of people poured out of all the buildings. The bells of London began to clash. Northumberland Avenue was now crowded with people in hundreds, nay, thousands, rushing hither and thither in a frantic manner, shouting and screaming with joy. I could see that Trafalgar Square was already swarming. Around me in our very headquarters, in the Hotel Metropole, disorder had broken out. Doors banged. Feet clattered down corridors. Everyone rose from the desk and cast aside pen and paper. All bounds were broken. The tumult grew. It grew like a gale, but from all sides simultaneously. The street was now a seething mass of humanity. Flags appeared as if by magic. Streams of men and women flowed from the Embankment. They mingled with torrents pouring down the Strand on their way to acclaim the King. Almost before the last stroke of the clock had died away, the strict, war-straitened, regulated streets of London had become a triumphant pandemonium. At any rate it was clear that no more work would be done that day.”
–Winston Churchill (From The World Crisis 1911-1918, Vol. 2)
By Kevin Shupe, Senior Reference Archivist at the Library of Virginia.
In 1871 Massachusetts-born Edward Daniels became the editor of the state’s flagship Republican newspaper, the Daily State Journal. He had moved to Virginia just three years previously, purchasing Gunston Hall – the formerly grand estate near Mount Vernon that had once belonged to George Mason. Daniels undoubtedly brought a Northerner’s viewpoint to the newspaper. Not only had he spent 40 years residing in New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, and most recently Chicago, he had also taken a leading role in agitating against slavery before the Civil War, was one of the founders of the Republican Party, and he had commanded a Wisconsin cavalry unit early in the war. Within a few months of taking over the newspaper, Daniels tried to win elected office. In 1871, he ran for a seat in the Virginia state legislature. A year later, he was the Republican candidate for a seat in U. S. House of Representatives. While he made a respectable showing, he lost both elections.
By all appearances, Daniels fit the stereotype of the dreaded carpetbagger — a Northerner who moved to the South after the Civil War, seeking to impose Northern political beliefs and looking to benefit from the chaotic post-war economy. This stereotype, conjured in the struggles of Reconstruction, remains a vivid censure, but it is one that in ways obscures the motives that brought Daniels briefly into the spotlight of Virginia politics. Daniels came of age in an era of rapid cultural changes, a seemingly progressive trajectory that envisioned a modern America grounded on economic and social equality. To that end he became a leading voice in a chorus of reformers who sought answers to the nation’s economic … read more »
Reading Obituaries as Historical Texts
By Kim Bowman, LVA Summer Intern
On February 19, 1887, the Afro-American Churchman published an obituary for Reverend Samuel V. Berry. From this entry, we learn how Rev. Berry received his calling, where his talents lay in his job, and how much his work was valued by his community. This entry also tells us about the frequency with which he relocated for work and his major accomplishments with each move. Just over a decade later, the Clinch Valley News published an obituary for Mrs. Eliza Young. In it, the author briefly documented her life as an enslaved African American, as a mother, and as a nurse.
Obituaries are a fixture of many newspapers featured in Virginia Chronicle’s database. When we take time to look closely at their contents, we not only get a sense of the individuals they describe, but also the time period within which they lived and died. An attentive reader might ask why we learn so much about Rev. Berry’s work when the only mention of Mrs. Young’s years of service as a nurse is limited to one sentence. These kinds of observations can help identify the expectations placed on people from different backgrounds living in past societies. For example, in the 1800s, many communities tended to value women who focused on family and the home. This may be why Mrs. Young’s career outside the home received little attention compared to Rev. Berry’s work.
A paired-text activity like this one can be a powerful critical thinking activity for students in a classroom or an important research experience for someone unearthing their family history. So, next time you are reading the obituary section, ask yourself “What’s the focus here and why?”, “What might be left unsaid?”, “What opportunities might one person have … read more »
By Kyle Rogers, LVA Newspaper Project volunteer
As the start of the K-12 school year looms, and college students gear up for their fall semester, the Library of Virginia peers back at how the back-to-school frenzy used to look in America’s historical newspapers. Make sure to check next week on Chronicling America’s #ChronAmParty twitter page to see how newspapers from around the country announced back to school time.
First thing’s first, kids: you have to have the right outfit. As Burk & Co. said, going back to school isn’t easy after summer vacation, but “It’s easier on the boys if they go back wearing stylish new clothes.” Buy Burk & Co. for “quality that saves money.” Oh, and don’t forget to buy some new dresses “That’ll truly please [even] the most critical young school miss of six to fourteen years.”
And don’t forget the importance of a nutritious breakfast! Mrs. M. A. Wilson of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reminded parents, “Chilly mornings and evenings mean that from now on the body will require additional heat and energy foods,” and she provides her own recipes for preparing calorie-packed breakfast cereals. Kettle not included.
Students needed just as many supplies for the classroom during the 1910s as they do now in the 2010s, but how did their parents get them in the era before Amazon…or any online shopping? They shopped at the Cohen Company, of course! Don’t forget your writing ink and gum for art class!
I can testify from personal experience about the importance of being able to see well in the classroom. Students with poor vision need prescription glasses, so that they can see the board and complete their homework assignments without struggling to read the questions. Luckily, famous optician Charles Lincoln Smith is here to help. The Times-Dispatch reported … read more »
By Kyle Rogers, LVA Newspaper Project volunteer
In recognition of the centennial anniversary of the Allies’ victory in World War I, the Newspaper Project remembers the “Queens of the Spy World Whose Intrigues Sway the Fate of Nations.” As this melodramatic article published in 1918 by The Sun (New York, NY) demonstrates, women spies not only were instrumental in the gathering of military secrets but also made for sensational headlines on the homefront. In “Queens of the Spy World,” The Sun compared the often tragic and short-lived espionage careers of Germany’s female agents during The Great War.
Germany’s extensive Wilhelmstrasse spy service included such femmes fatales as Felice Schmidt, Mlle. Sumey Depsy, Mata Hari, and Mme. Despina Storch. The article describes how these women spies infiltrated the governments of the Allies by posing as teachers, courtiers, dancers, courtesans, and even the occasional fruit vendor. Schmidt, for example, had herself exiled from Germany as a “suspicious character” in 1915, so that she could establish herself in London in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to seduce Britain’s Secretary of State for War, Horatio Herbert Kitchener. In The New York Evening World’s “Stories of Spies” section, Felice Schmidt – The German Spy Sent to Tempt Kitchener, reporter Albert Terhune elaborated on Schmidt’s story. After realizing that it was impossible to pry military secrets out of Kitchener, Schmidt instead insinuated herself in Marseilles as an apple seller, so that she could study the French artillery. After being caught by the French police while making a sketch of their guns, she was tried as a spy and put to death.
One of the Allies’ most famous female spies was British nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed by the German military for helping some 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium. Her death by firing … read more »
By Kyle Rogers, LVA Newspaper Project volunteer
As part of an ongoing effort to give voice to nineteenth-century African Americans through digital projects like Virginia Untold and Virginia Chronicle, the Virginia Newspaper Project has identified nearly 500 advertisements posted by free African Americans during the antebellum era and the Civil War (c. 1800-1865) concerning their freedom papers. The example, below, was published in the Richmond Daily Dispatch on July 12, 1859:
Freedom papers, or “free papers,” were protective documents that certified a free African American’s non-slave status. Frederick Douglass, as usual, best explains the legal and personal significance of free papers to their bearers:
It was the custom in the State of Maryland to require of the free colored people to have what were called free papers. This instrument they were required to renew very often, and by charging a fee for this writing, considerable sums from time to time were collected by the State. In these papers the name, age, color, height and form of the free man were described, together with any scars or other marks upon his person which could assist in his identification. This device of slaveholding ingenuity, like other devices of wickedness, in some measure defeated itself—since more than one man could be found to answer the same general description. Hence many slaves could escape by impersonating the owner of one set of papers… The operation was a hazardous one for the lender as well as for the borrower. Douglass, Frederick. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself. pp. 245–246.
A free African American’s papers constituted a legal affidavit which identified him … read more »