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Money Money Money: Running Up Student Debts in Brunswick County

The start of August brings with it the excitement and anticipation of numerous young men and women as they prepare for their first year in college, moving away from home to a new part of the commonwealth, or to a new state altogether. It also brings many parents the not-so-pleasant anticipation of a variety of associated expenses, and the fear of unwanted debt. An 1832 Brunswick County chancery cause is a sobering reminder of how important it is for students to understand and follow a good budget, and to live within their means.

In 1826 Edwin Drummond was a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He appears to have been what we would now call an out-of-state student, hailing from Morgan County, Georgia.  However, it seems he had family and friends in Brunswick County, Virginia, and owned a tract of land there. Documents in the chancery cause do not reveal whether he was a “first year” or an upper-classman, yet they do reveal that he was boarding locally and not living “on grounds.” Like your average college student today, Edwin wanted to dress stylishly. He frequented local tailors, boot and shoemakers, and general merchandise stores.


Unfortunately, Edwin ran up debts with two Charlottesville tailors. He owed Henry Price $26.37 for his services between January 1826 and January 1827. A detailed account … read more »

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A Few of Our Favorite Things: Letterhead in the Archives, Great Seal Edition

189_, Governor's Office

The design of the Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia was adopted by the Virginia Convention on 5 July 1776, based on the work of a committee including George Mason, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, and Robert Carter Nicholas. Their design emphasized themes of civic virtue based on ancient Roman mythology, but it was not cast properly and over the years numerous variations sprang up. In 1930 a committee was formed, including the current Librarian of Virginia Dr. H. R. McIlwaine, to look into the situation and establish an official version of the great seal. As part of the work for that committee, McIlwaine collected a series of letterheads with variations of the Virginia seal on them. They differed wildly in their portrayal of the Roman goddess Virtus, the defeated tyrant, and even the background of the scene. The original text on letterheads by Vince Brooks is included here for context.

Commercial stationery can offer a fascinating snapshot of a place or time. Scholars of this subject point out that the rich illustrations and elaborate printing of commercial letterheads, billheads, and envelopes correspond with the dramatic rise in industrialization in America. According to one expert, the period 1860 to 1920 represents the heyday of commercial stationery, when Americans could see their growing nation reflected in the artwork on their bills and correspondence. … read more »

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Glimpses of History: Henrico County Court Order Books


As we have often seen in this blog, even the driest local records can lead to the most interesting stories. Such is the case with the Henrico county court order books, which recorded all matters brought before the court when it was in session, providing organized synopses of cases. The Library of Virginia’s research guide for county and city court records notes that the order books contain a wide variety of information, including appointments of county and militia officers, records of legal disputes heard before the county court, appointments of guardians, apprenticeship of children by the overseers of the poor, naturalizations, road orders, and registrations of free African Americans.

Occasionally indexes to the volumes were compiled separately and inserted into the front or back covers of a volume. The indexes are a great resource to peruse, as they often reveal more than just last names and page numbers—they lead to entries that reveal much about the complex lives and times of the people referenced therein. A few examples from the indexes and entries in a few volumes of Henrico County order books created between 1780 and 1801 illustrate this.

Orphans and the poor, regardless of race, were often apprenticed or “bound out,” and sometimes the order book provided information about various trades. In 1790, “George Maxfield a poor orphan” was bound to a shoemaker, “Simon, … read more »

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“These are the men who took the cliffs”: Virginians on D-Day

Seventy-five years ago today, Allied forces landed on the Normandy beaches of France, launching the invasion that would push the Nazis out of France and eventually end the Second World War in Europe. This year’s commemoration may be the last to include a significant number of veterans, most of whom are now in their mid-90s. With that somber reality in mind, the Virginia World War I and World War II Profiles of Honor Mobile Tour set out to gather stories of Virginia’s men and women who helped win the Second World War. They include several who, on that historic day in June, “embarked upon the Great Crusade [to] bring about the destruction of the German war machine.”

William T. O’Neill, for example, served on the U.S. LCT (6) 544, one of more than 4,000 landing crafts that were part of the massive invasion fleet. The craft was designed to transport tanks and other cargo; on D-Day, the 544’s specific mission was to deliver a Headquarters 1st Infantry scout team and a squad of the 5th Battalion Special Combat Engineers to a beach called Fox Green. They continued to land personnel throughout the day, as well as bringing the wounded off the beaches. O’Neill also witnessed, and photographed, the sinking of the USS Susan B. Anthony.


Major Thomas Dry Howie, who taught at Staunton … read more »

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A Few of Our Favorite Things: Letterhead in the Archive

Happy World Stationery Day! As promised in a previous posts, here’s another look at some of the plethora of letterheads and stationery found in our archives.  The original text by Vince Brooks is included here for context.

Commercial stationery can offer a fascinating snapshot of a place or time. Scholars of this subject point out that the rich illustrations and elaborate printing of commercial letterheads, billheads, and envelopes correspond with the dramatic rise in industrialization in America. According to one expert, the period 1860 to 1920 represents the heyday of commercial stationery, when Americans could see their growing nation reflected in the artwork on their bills and correspondence. As commercial artists influenced the job printing profession, the illustrations became more detailed and creative.

Robert Biggert, an authority on commercial stationery, wrote an extensive study of letterhead design for the Ephemera Society of America entitled “Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery” and donated his personal collection of stationery, now known as the Biggert Collection, to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.

The primary role of these illustrations at the time of their use was publicity. The images showed bustling factories, busy street corners, and sturdy bank buildings–all portraying ideas of solidity, activity, and progress. Other types of symbolism can be found in commercial stationery, the most ubiquitous being “man’s … read more »

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A Virginia Soldier in Mexico

Ed. note: Today we have a guest post from Brexton O’Donnell, Tour Counselor, Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission, highlighting some of the content collected during the Profiles of Honor mobile tour.

Photographs taken by, and belonging to, Clarence Pax, taken during his participation in the Poncho Villa Expedition. Courtesy of George Goodson Jr. (Pax)

The United States entered the Great War in 1917, and began deploying large forces to France near the end of that year. Even before then, American volunteers were serving in France with the French and British militaries. But France was not the only place that Americans, and Virginians, in the service were deployed before we entered World War I. In 1916, US Army forces, at the direction of President Woodrow Wilson, entered Mexico in pursuit of the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, who had raided across the border into American territory. In response to the crisis, the Virginia National Guard was federalized, and some units were deployed to the border between Texas and Mexico.

Clarence Pax was one of the Virginia National Guardsmen who was deployed to the Mexican border in 1916. Having graduated from Auburn at age sixteen, he was a rather remarkable young man. He was serving in the National Guard at the time of the Pancho Villa Expedition, and was among those sent to the border. Pax took many photos during his deployment, and 100 years later, his family brought them to the Virginia WWI and WWII … read more »

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Erin Go Bragh! Images of St Patrick’s Day in the Visual Studies Collection

The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls...,  Visual Studies Collection, Library of Virginia.

This March we are highlighting vintage St. Patrick’s Day postcards from the Visual Studies Collection at the Library of Virginia. What is the backstory behind some of the images and symbols we associate with St. Patrick’s Day? And how did Virginians in the past celebrate this most Irish of holidays?

It may surprise many Americans to learn that St. Patrick’s Day did not become an official public holiday in Ireland until 1903. As the feast day of St. Patrick, known as the “Apostle of Ireland,” the “holy day” traditionally featured religious observances. In the United States, Irish immigrants embraced the holiday as a way to celebrate their shared heritage and honor the saint. It was in New York City, not Dublin, that the first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in 1762 (see the Tenement Museum’s excellent history of St. Patrick’s Day in New York).

The dual nature of St. Patrick’s Day as a commemoration of the saint and an expression of Irish identity is evident in the iconography associated with the holiday. We see St. Patrick represented by his golden crozier (hooked staff), a bishop’s mitre, and shamrocks, which legend held he used to teach the doctrine of the Trinity. While the early history of these symbols is unclear, they were in use by the 17th century, when they were included on coinageread more »

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Ich Liebe Dich! Vintage Valentines

Happy Valentine’s Day to our Out of the Box readers! Valentine’s Day is perhaps the most critiqued of any holiday for being “made-up,” but as a celebration of romantic love it dates back to the 14th century. Mass-produced valentines became increasingly popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, coinciding with another trend—humorous postcards portraying Dutch and German immigrants. HA! Weren’t expecting that, were you?

These postcards played on turn-of-the-century stereotypes about German culture and speech, and although the valentines displayed below seem to have been created in fun, other examples were more negative, reflecting native-born Americans fears about waves of new immigrants as threats to American values and jobs.


To see more examples of Vintage Valentines, check out LOOK WHAT WE GOT, the Library of Virginia’s Tumblr page, which is frequently updated with new additions to the visual studies collection, or take a look at our Vintage Valentines Pinterest board. To learn more about immigrant experience in Virginia, check out the Library’s exhibit New Virginians: 1619-2019 & Beyond, through 7 December 2019.… read more »

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Poe, Richmond, and the Universe

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with Virginia Humanities, sponsors residential fellows during the academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Richard Kopley, Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus, Penn State DuBois, spent the autumn researching and writing for an upcoming biography, Thoughts on Poe. The 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth will be on 19 January 2019.

I had begun a biography of Edgar Allan Poe, covering his time with his parents, actors Elizabeth Arnold Poe and David Poe, in Boston and New York—then with Elizabeth Arnold Poe alone in Charleston, Norfolk, and Richmond—and finally with foster parents John and Frances Allan after Mrs. Poe died in Richmond. John Allan, a partner in the mercantile firm of Ellis & Allan, later took the family to London to establish a branch called Allan & Ellis. The Allans returned to Richmond when the Panic of 1819, and more particularly, tobacco mania destroyed Allan & Ellis and threatened the entire firm. My recent time at the Library of Virginia was devoted principally to that period after their return to Richmond in 1820. I can offer as a sample of my research a newspaper find of cosmic proportions.

Poe probably had access to a telescope at the Dubourg school in London, where he studied in 1816 and 1817. His foster father … read more »

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“If They Consent to Leave Them Over There”: The European Pilgrimages of World War I Mothers and Widows From Virginia

This article originally appeared in slightly altered form in the Summer 2001 issue of “Virginia Cavalcade.” The images are taken from two private papers collections acquired after the article’s original publication. Mary Derrickson and Carrie Elizabeth Alborn Perry both traveled to France in 1930 to visit the graves of their sons.

Carrie Elizabeth Alborn Perry papers, 1930. Accession 45075. Personal papers collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.


On 23 February 1920, Annie Lam of Covington, Virginia, wrote to the U.S. adjutant general about her son, Sergeant Bedford C. Lam, who had been a member of the Virginia National Guard. “Nearly one year ago you sent me a card to fill out as to what deposition I wanted made of the body, of my son who died in Camp Hospital No. 10 Aug 1st 1918… I sometimes feel like I would rather not have his body moved and am writing to ask if you think the Government will in any way aid the mothers to go to the graves of their sons if they consent to leave them ‘over there.’” Lam ultimately chose to leave Bedford’s remains in Saint-Mihiel American Cemetery, near Thiaucourt, France. On 9 July 1930, she sailed to Europe to visit her son’s grave on a pilgrimage of Gold Star Mothers and Widows, as she had foreshadowed in her letter ten years earlier.

Over a three-year period beginning in the spring of 1930, thousands … read more »

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