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- “Unwarranted, Unnecessary, Undemocratic:” The Virginia General Assembly Responds to the Proposed Nineteenth Amendment in 1919


Pickets at the White House, 1917. Harris & Ewing, photographer. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In June 1919 Congress proposed an amendment to the Constitution of the United States guaranteeing women’s right to vote (with only one vote in favor from Virginia’s congressional delegation, Republican C. Bascom Slemp). Virginia suffrage advocates expressed their hopes that ratification would happen quickly. Equal Suffrage League of Virginia president Lila Meade Valentine rejoiced that Congress had at last taken action to “enable this nation to stand before the democracies of the world unashamed,” although she regretted that Virginia “did not long ago take the initiative” by passing an amendment to the state constitution. “I trust,” she concluded, that the General Assembly “may atone for the past neglect by being among the first to ratify the national amendment.”

Nine states ratified the amendment (often referred to as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment) before the end of June. Although the General Assembly of Virginia was not scheduled to hold its regular session until January 1920, the governor called a special session for August 1919 to prepare a plan to take advantage of a federal grant for road construction. Suffragists in Virginia disagreed about whether to push the issue of ratification during the special session or to wait until the regular session five months later. Equal Suffrage League officers favored laying the groundwork for ratification in the regular session, but members of the Virginia branch of the … read more »

- Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Founding of the General Assembly of Virginia


Seal of the Governor's Council, Seventeenth century. Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.

The first meeting of the General Assembly of Virginia took place at the church building in Jamestown on 30 July 1619. The session lasted for four hot days, not including a Sunday. The founding of the first and oldest representative legislative body in the western hemisphere was an event of epic importance in Virginia and the United States.

It may surprise people that the records of the first General Assembly are not preserved in the Virginia state archives, which are in the Library of Virginia in Richmond. There are two important reasons why that is not the case.

The first reason is that the General Assembly was not technically a governmental institution. It was a new instrument that the Virginia Company of London created to manage its small settlement in the New World. Consequently, the records belonged to the company, a chartered speculative investment enterprise that operated under a royal charter and had settled the colony.

The other reason is that any copies of the 1619 documents that may have remained in the General Assembly’s possession would have been destroyed along with most of the legislative and executive records of the colony in one of the British raids on Richmond during the American Revolution. In fact, histories of Virginia written before that time suggest that no copy was in the colony even then. The one … read more »

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- Preservation Week 2019: Tips for Preserving Your Treasures


Pres Wk image

Surveys estimate that over 15 percent of collections in U.S. institutions need immediate preservation or conservation attention. In order to raise awareness about the state of our national documentary heritage and the potential danger of catastrophic events, the American Library Association launched Preservation Week in the mid-2000s. As the natural disasters of recent years have shown, the concern should not be limited to institutional collections. Private collections of family, personal, and community records are equally susceptible to damage, decay, and destruction.

 

Books, prints, photographs, and family papers become fragile as they age and are susceptible to damage when they are not carefully handled. Proper storage is especially important to prevent light, heat, and moisture from causing problems. Even so, there are plenty of simple measures you can take to make sure your paper-based items are protected.

  1. Keep things out of the light. Both daylight and artificial light are very damaging to paper items. They can fade and become brittle a lot faster than you might imagine, so don’t leave them out where they will be exposed for extended periods of time. If you want to display your original papers or photos, consider making good quality facsimiles for this purpose.
  2. Keep paper items in a controlled environment. Temperature and humidity fluctuations can also quickly destroy your treasures. Never store paper materials in basements or attics,
  3. read more »

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- “Irrespective of race or color:” African Americans and the Making of a New Virginia Constitution


The State Convention at Richmond, Va., in Session, with Willis A. Hodges in the center front, published in Leslie's Illustrated Weekly, February 15, 1868.

On 17 April 1868, exactly seven years after a Virginia convention had voted to secede from the United States, another Virginia convention voted to approve a new constitution. For the first time in Virginia’s history, African American men participated in framing the state’s governing principles and laws.

The Library of Virginia’s Dictionary of Virginia Biography has recently completed a project to document the lives of these African American members of the convention, and their biographies are published online with our digital partner, Encyclopedia Virginia. These biographies (and many others) can be accessed through the Dictionary of Virginia Biography Search page or through Encyclopedia Virginia.

In 1867 Congress had required states of the former Confederacy (except Tennessee) to write

First Vote, from the cover of Harper's Weekly, November 16, 1867.

new constitutions before their senators and representatives could take their seats in Congress. On 22 October 1867, African American men voted for the first time in Virginia. In the election conducted by U.S. Army officers, voters answered two questions: whether to hold a convention to write a new constitution, and, if the convention referendum passed, who would represent them. Army officers recorded votes of white and black men separately, and some or all localities required voters to place their ballots in separate ballot boxes. Many white Virginians refused to participate in the election or were ineligible because they were former Confederates who had not taken an … read more »

- 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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- The Remarkable Hodges Family of Princess Anne County and Norfolk


Caricature of Willis A. Hodges published in Richmond Southern Opinion, December 21, 1867.

During the night of 23 April 1829, six African American men made a daring escape from the Norfolk County jail. One of them was William Johnson Hodges, a free man suspected of forging free papers and passes for enslaved Virginians. In this case, he had been convicted of changing the amount owed on a bill for another man and sentenced to five years imprisonment. He fled to Canada and later settled in Brooklyn.

 The Hodges family of Princess Anne County and Norfolk played an important role in Virginia’s postbellum political landscape. Four members of the family are included as part of the Library of Virginia’s Dictionary of Virginia Biography project in collaboration with Encyclopedia Virginia to document the lives of African American legislators and members of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868.

William Johnson Hodges was the eldest son of Charles Augustus Hodges and his second wife, Julia Nelson Willis Hodges, free African Americans of mixed-race ancestry. Julia’s father was a white man who reportedly served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. The family was one of the more prosperous of the free black families in Princess Anne County. Charles Hodges purchased three farms and his own father’s freedom, and arranged for his children’s education. At some point, almost every member of the family moved to New York to avoid the discrimination and … read more »

- History in Your Hands: The Smartest Way to Explore 400 Years of History


Virginia History Trails promo

Love history? Love to travel? The Virginia History Trails app is for you! Developed by the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution, in collaboration with the Library of Virginia and Virginia Humanities, the Virginia History Trails app is one of many endeavors commemorating 400 years of Virginia history and culture centering on themes of democracy, diversity, and opportunity.

The Virginia History Trails app contains more than 400 stories highlighting important people, places, and events that shaped the state and the nation. Included in the stories are more than 200 historic sites, museums, and markers awaiting discovery. Each story contains an image, short description, and links to more information, as well as mapped directions from your location. You can find these stories with the keyword search function or by finding what is nearby with the app’s GPS option. If you are not sure where to start, there are 20 preloaded trails to explore:

  • African American
  • American Revolution
  • Citizenship
  • Civil Rights
  • Civil War
  • Conflicts
  • Culture
  • Education
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Exploration
  • Immigration
  • Innovation
  • Military
  • Preservation
  • Presidents
  • Religious Liberty
  • Representative Government
  • Resistance
  • Virginia Indians
  • Women

Through these trails you can learn more about historical figures and events you know (or think you know) and discover other items of interest. Let’s say you know about Maggie Walker, the civil rights activist and pioneer businesswoman. The app shows the location of her home … read more »

Also posted in Virginia Humanities
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- Those Who Served, Those Who Fell: War and the Yearbook


Fare Fac Sampler, 1943, Fairfax High School, Fairfax, VA. https://archive.org/details/farefacsampler1943fair_0

As the holiday season comes and goes, our thoughts turn to those who are away from home and those who will never see home again. Through my work with the Virginia Yearbooks Digitization Project, I found that many students during times of war, both in the armed services and support services, were recognized and remembered in their local school yearbooks. So far, I have only uncovered yearbooks referring to WWII, despite browsing through others looking for similar tributes during WWI and the Korean or Vietnam wars. Due to copyright law, this project only includes yearbooks up until 1977.  If our readers have examples from other wars, we would love to see them!

It has been heartwarming and heartbreaking to read the homages of students to their fellow classmates and friends on the covers, dedication pages, or other yearbook sections. Those young students obviously thought it was important to pay their respects to their peers. For example, one digitized yearbook from the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company Apprentice Program depicts an era in Virginia when many young men from the Tidewater region either served in the military or worked at the shipyard. The yearbook dedication reads, “To the all important role played by the shipbuilder in the fight for our American way of life, we humbly dedicate the 1942 Binnacle.” An opening page … read more »

- Season’s Greetings and More!

Did you know that the Library of Virginia’s Visual Studies Collection has a Tumblr page for new acquisitions? It is called LOOK WHAT WE GOT, and the page is a feast for the eyes! At least twice a day, images of newly acquired materials ranging from holiday cocktail napkins and dinner menus to family snapshots and vacation postcards are posted for research and enjoyment.

Particularly fun at this time of year are the December holiday images. Please enjoy these seasonal selections and follow LOOK WHAT WE GOT on Tumblr to keep up with new Visual Studies Collection acquisitions.

 … read more »

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- Chasing Steeples through WWI France

The Library of Virginia’s Visual Studies Collection has a collection of German postcards depicting non-combat scenes from the Western Front. Schaar & Dathe of Trier printed the postcards, which depict the effects of war through images of ruins, life in the camps, and the clean-up efforts of soldiers and civilians.

Schaar & Dathe of Trier was one of the biggest German postcard printers and used letterpress, lithograph, and collotype processes. During WWI, the company had 15 presses and employed 150 workers. Creating postcards during the war was an easy, affordable way to spread news visually about the areas most affected by combat. It’s odd to think of someone sending and receiving these images, but it might have been the easiest way to update someone about the damage in your town.

In thinking of how to best show these images online, I focused on the places depicted and selected the HistoryPin platform. The Library of Virginia uploads image sets with strong geographical ties to HistoryPin, so that users can explore them by location. For instance, if you look at Richmond, you’ll see all the Adolph Rice photographs we’ve uploaded, as well as everyone else’s images. Users can attach their stories and recollections to the images as well, creating multidimensional descriptions. Part of the fun of HistoryPin is matching up old photographs with current images of the … read more »

Also posted in World War I Centennial
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