Just a few months ago, I had never so much as heard the name Asimov.
While I wouldn’t call myself an aficionado, I’ve always liked science fiction. I grew up on classics like Star Wars and The X-Files and have more recently explored modern takes on the genre like Black Mirror and Everything Everywhere All At Once. I spent a couple of months in high school reading science fiction short stories, impressed by the way they made my mind run laps trying to figure out whatever speculation of alternate life or future technology they proposed. I still sprinkle in science fiction to my regular reading diet here and there with novels like Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Now, after processing a collection of science fiction works as an intern with the Rare Book Room, I finally know what I’ve been missing.
What I had never known while I was consuming all these stories was that, during the boom of the science fiction genre in the 20th century, one man led the way.
According to Isaac Asimov, “Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.” Science fiction peaked in the mid-20th century thanks to the contributions of writers like Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Bradbury. Asimov, however, was one of the most prominent and the most prolific science fiction authors of this time. From the onset of his writing career in 1939 to the end of his life in 1992, he had written, edited, and published more than 600 titles—most of which relate to science and science fiction. His most famous works include his Galactic Empire series, his Foundation series (the original trilogy of which earned him the Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1966), and his Robot series. He not only brought scientific thinking to an audience of millions, but he also challenged people to expand their conception of the human experience to include the consequences of scientific and technological advancement.
Asimov’s work laid the groundwork for modern science fiction storytelling and pervades scientific thinking to this day. The concepts he developed, such as robotics and psychohistory, have inspired innumerable thinkers and creators. For example, his iconic “Three Laws of Robotics,” included in I, Robot in 1950, serve as the basis for discussions about robotics, influence portrayals of robots in media, and shape modern notions of the ethics of artificial intelligence.
My internship with the Rare Book Room during the Fall semester of 2023 introduced me to Isaac Asimov and his massive impact on society. I was tasked with processing a personal collection of books gifted to the Rare Book Room by avid reader and dedicated collector Larry Miller. This collection of 172 books and comics sheds light on the overarching, interconnected themes of readership and authorship. But because it centered around the writing of Isaac Asimov, it also emphasized the influence his writing had on other authors, the genre of science fiction, the literary world, and society as a whole.
I have curated a library exhibit based on the work I’ve done to carry the collection through the library’s gift processing procedure. This exhibit of 5 display cases features a selection of the books, comics, and personal correspondence that best represent the collection. Anyone interested in learning more about Isaac Asimov and the rest of this collection is encouraged to stop by the second-floor atrium of the Downtown Library to view the exhibit.
In addition to allowing me to exercise my rhetorical skills and creativity, this internship experience has inspired me to delve further into science fiction media. With boundless advancements in technology and the recent rise of artificial intelligence, science fiction has never been more relevant. Maybe if we dig deeper into the historical influences of modern science fiction, we can be better prepared for the future.
This post was written by Devon Lewars and Erica Uzak.
“Born of Rebellion: WV Statehood and the Civil War,” a traveling exhibit established by the West Virginia Humanities Council, has made its way to the Downtown Library’s Rockefeller Gallery. Civil War historians and WVRHC GAs Erica Uszak and Devon Lewars will be sharing their first impressions of the exhibit.
When visiting, take note of the suggested panels to follow. See exhibit directory below.
Each section title is a quote taken from the diary of Sirene Bunton, a teenager at the time, she lost two of her brothers to the conflict.
See Devon’s favorite panel below:
This panel engages visitors by asking them to choose what the state should have been called if “West Virginia” wasn’t an option. Magnets are provided to visualize votes for each alternative name. Stop by the second floor to cast your own!
The panels have been designed to showcase different perspectives of the conflict which can be seen by shifting your body to each side of the panel board. See below two different perspectives of the same panel:
“Born of Rebellion” utilizes a variety of sources that highlight the voices of women, African Americans, and Virginians/West Virginians. See for yourself the beautiful details that were put into this exhibit by visiting the downtown library through the first week of December!
The above section was written by Devon Lewars.
President Abraham Lincoln came to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863, tasked with giving “a few appropriate remarks” in a dedication paying tribute to those U. S. soldiers laid to rest in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. He began his address by reminding the audience of the nation’s core principles found in the Declaration of Independence, which stated that “all men are created equal.” He concluded his address by pledging “increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion,” and an increased commitment to the soldiers and the ideas found in the Declaration, promising that “these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
A few months earlier, on June 20, West Virginia had been granted statehood into the United States, breaking free from the seceded Confederate state of Virginia. West Virginia’s involvement in the Civil War and its statehood are discussed in the new exhibit, “Born of Rebellion.” This exhibit explores the war’s beginning and the importance of slavery at the heart of the conflict, military action in West Virginia, the political statehood process, Black West Virginians, Union and Confederate West Virginia women, and the commemoration and memory of the war in the state. The exhibit condenses many complicated details and presents the war in an accessible way. It does not shy away from the issue of slavery and discusses the hardships that enslaved people faced in slavery and the continued struggle for freedom after emancipation. One of the most moving aspects of the exhibit are the enlarged photographs of men, women, and children, who look directly at the viewer. Most striking is the photograph of the young children in the Lincoln school in Wheeling, which “was one of the first publicly funded educational institutions for Black children in the state,” according to the exhibit. It adds that these schools did not have the same state funding as all-white schools. Many schools stayed racially segregated until 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate but equal” was “inherently unequal.” One of the panels about Black West Virginians concludes, “In many ways, the fight for equality has been nearly as difficult as the antebellum struggle against slavery,” as they fought against racism, discrimination, and white violence.
While the road to full freedom and equality for all would be treacherous and long, many West Virginians fought for the “new birth of freedom” that Lincoln had promised. They renewed their commitment to independence and freedom in their state motto: Montani Sempre Liberi – Mountaineers are always free.
Written by Stewart Plein, Curator of Rare Books & Printed Resources
My mother loved holidays and she celebrated all of them. There would be a cherry pie for Washington’s Birthday, back when it was its own holiday, one of those miniature flags stuck in our breakfast toast for the Fourth of July, and sugar cookies for all the holidays in every shape imaginable from Easter bunnies, to shamrocks, turkeys, and Christmas Trees.
But Halloween seemed to be her favorite. She’d decorate the house with vintage Halloween decorations from her youth. Black cats against orange moons, witches on broomsticks and those fold out tissue papers pumpkins and of course, jack ‘o lanterns. That’s why, when I saw a children’s magazine from 1919 specifically dedicated to Halloween, I bought it and gave it to her.
The magazine was called John Martin’s Book. Published by Morgan van Roorbach Shepard, under the pen name of John Martin, the magazine was aimed at children between the ages of five and eight. The magazine ran for twenty years and sold for 10 – 50 cents an issue over its long run. Stories and illustrations by popular authors, like children’s author Thornton Burgess, known for his Old Mother West Wind series, and illustrators, such as Johnny Gruelle, best known for Raggedy Ann and Andy, filled its pages.
Not surprisingly, the Halloween issue is filled with black cats and jack o’lanterns. From the front cover, to the title page, to the story of cats who lost their tales, black cats were the dominate feature of this Halloween issue.
There was even a card that could be cut out and colored to be given to a friend or a parent.
Finally, there were advertisements marketed to children and aimed at their parents. For example, this ad for Swift & Co. breakfast meats ensures children would ask for the ham and bacon advertised just like kids today ask for McDonald’s chicken nuggets. The ad for Steinway Pianos had its own song. Of course, you have to ask your parents for a Steinway piano to play it!
I hope you enjoyed this look back at Halloween 104 years ago.
For this blog post, the West Virginia and Regional History Center is happy to present the John Russo Papers collection, detailing the life, career, and achievements of horror film and story writer, and West Virginia University alumnus, John Russo. John Russo was born in Clarion, Pennsylvania on February 2nd, 1939, north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Russo is a self-taught writer and filmmaker, having written his first unpublished novel, Beer and Apathy, in 1961 while attending WVU. He was also drafted for 2+ years into the United States Army after attending college. While attending WVU, however, Russo met a man that would forever change not only his life, but the entirety of horror culture in general. The man he met while on a holiday break was attending Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, and was known as soon to be legendary film director George Romero.
Russo and Romero would hit it off and become friends. Once Russo got out of the army, he got back with Romero and presented him with an idea that he ended up loving about a man fighting off a horde of ghouls. Romero loved the idea so much that he ended up writing a version of the story based on the idea, and then the two put their heads together, co-writing a story and film that would go on to redefine the horror genre forever when it was released in 1968: Night of the Living Dead. The film, which follows two people fending off a horde of undead rising from their graves to consume flesh, was released on October 1st, 1968, having been filmed the year prior in January of 1967. The movie premiered in Pittsburgh, PA at the Fulton Theater (now called the Byham Theater), and attracted hordes of people all clamoring to see Pittsburgh’s first feature film, as it was filmed in the area by Russo and Romero’s film group, The Latent Image.
Grossing $30 million internationally and becoming the highest grossing film in Europe in 1969, Night of the Living Dead redefined what horror film could be, especially after being made on such a small budget outside of a major studio in a industry-driven city like Pittsburgh. Having made back over 263 times its budget of $114,000 (equivalent to $1,043,376.47in 2023), Night of the Living Dead was a huge commercial success. The film was controversial for its horrific, violent content, and also having broken barriers for being the first horror film ever to star an African-American man (Duane Jones) in a lead role, helping to pave the way for more black actors and actresses for years to come.
The West Virginia and Regional History Center recently processed and included the John Russo Papers collection into its holdings, having been compiled and given to the Center by Mr. Russo himself. The collection includes a multitude of articles, newspaper clippings, audio visual materials, screenplays, scripts, posters, and other materials all detailing the 50+ years of Mr. Russo’s career and impact in the horror industry. Some notable items within the John Russo Papers collection include the typescript for his very first screenplay that he wrote while attending West Virginia University in 1961, Beer and Apathy, as well as several articles and clippings from when Night of the Living Dead was released in 1968. As seen in the articles, it was a point of pride at the time for the area to have a film as successful as Night of the Living Dead not only be filmed in Appalachia, but also premiere in Appalachia too.
Of course, Night of the Living Dead wasn’t Russo’s only accomplishment in the horror industry. He also helped to write the novelization of the story, and then continued the concept of corpses rising from the dead in Return of the Living Dead, released in 1984. The film has gone on to become a cult classic steeped in wonderfully campy 1980s goodness that continues to be enjoyed to this day. In the film, which is also detailed in several of the inclusions within the John Russo Papers collection, a strange gas is released from a barrel containing what is thought to be an undead zombie in a medical supply warehouse. This gas zombifies those in contact around it, and is released into the air around the supply right next to a graveyard, a thunderstorm causing the gas to seep into the ground. This, in turn, causes previously long-dead corpses to rise from their grave once more and violently attack anyone that comes to help. The film ends with a nuclear strike on the area as part of a “Containment Protocol,” which burns up the bodies of the undead, but it sends up dust into the atmosphere that is soon rained down, starting the horrific events all over again.
Russo’s also written several horror novels over the years, some of which have been printed into multiple editions. He’s also been written several other films besides his zombie-centric features like Midnight (1982) and acted in films like My Uncle John is a Zombie!, which was released on October 1st, 2017. In the film, Russo plays a zombie, also named John, that has been hidden by his family for years. Then, after recovering his mental faculties and humanity, he advocates for ethical treatment for zombies. However, there is a group of hunters out to kill him though for being a zombie. The film was filmed and shot locally in the Pittsburgh area, much like Night of the Living Dead was over fifty years before.
Not only are the mentioned items included within the collection, but there is much more for perusal within the John Russo Papers collection. This collection is great for anyone that’s a fan of film and horror in general, considering what a profound impact Night of the Living Dead had upon the genre, and even sparking a slew of zombie films afterwards. Come on in and take a look at horror film history, if you dare!
In our extensive collections here in the West Virginia Regional History Center, we house thousands of photographs throughout our region’s history. One collection I have found myself getting lost in recently is our collection of donated photographs from Richard Duez (A&M 3914), who kindly donated around 450 photographs from throughout the state’s history. The photographs Duez donated to us are extremely interesting to someone like me who enjoys local history, especially through the lens of photography. My personal favorite way to learn about history is through people’s stories, first-hand accounts, and any pictures taken at the time, but that is just how my mind works best. If you’re the same as me, I hope you enjoy the few photos I like the most from this collection!
This photo from Richard Duez’s collection is the one that first caught my eye. It is one of the more popular photographs from this collection for a reason! This collection has hundreds of photos and I’ve gone through every single one of them because this one hooked me in. As the picture states in the caption, it is an image of multiple members of Black Hand who were arrested and later executed from Fairmont, West Virginia around the year 1909. I enjoy researching this specific photo because I really enjoy researching immigration into the state, and mafia activity is a pivotal part of studying local immigration here in West Virginia. Black hand is a form of extortion utilized by a lot of Italian gangs from the time, and remained a major extortion method until present day. Oftentimes, those committing acts of extortion are not caught and prosecuted out of fear for the victims own lives. This photo is the rare occasion where extortionists are caught and successfully prosecuted. If you’re interested in organized crime either locally or internationally, this picture in our collections is an excellent starting point, and trust me when I say there is a lot to go through about criminal organizations in our state.
For those of you in the Morgantown area, I am sure you recognize this photograph. This image was taken at the intersection of Pleasant Street and High Street here in downtown Morgantown. While the date is unknown for this photograph, it is still neat to see how much this area has changed since it was taken, and also how little it has actually changed, too. You can see in the back of the image the house that is still up along the intersection of Pleasant and Spruce. I have always wanted to look around that house ever since I was in high school. I’d have to ride by that house on the bus every morning on my way to school, so you can’t blame me for wanting to be a little snoopy. From the looks of it, I don’t think our roads have gotten any better since then, either. It is interesting to see the change of things in a known area of town as well as how little some things have changed over the years.
This image from the collection is from 1984. If you can already guess what is going on, I can confirm for you that it is from the Mountaineer Field, currently named Milan Puskar Stadium. But an even better question is, can you guess who we’d beat? The answer is the Nittany Lions. This picture was taken just after the Mountaineers had just beaten the Penn State Nittany Lions for the first time in over 27 years! The Mountaineers won 17-14 and the students immediately stormed the field and tore down the goal posts. I wish we would’ve done something similar when we beat Pitt this season, but alas I doubt the school would’ve been too happy about the students storming the field. It is incredible to see how different the stadium looks now almost 40 years in the future today. Despite how poorly the mountaineers are doing this season, it is still important to look back on our school’s history to see how the culture around sports and the university as a whole has changed.
I hope these few images have piqued your interest to possibly come in and explore this collection we have in the history center. Richard Duez’s collection (A&M 3914) is an extremely diverse collection of photos from throughout our state’s History, and I highly recommend looking through the amazing pictures he has graciously donated to us. If you would like to see the rest of this collection for yourself in person, feel free to go onto our website and schedule an appointment here at the library. Make sure to request A&M 3914 if you would like to see more of this collection. This collection is also housed digitally on our website for your viewing pleasure. You can also come to the History Center in person and explore many more of our archival collections, not just Richard Duez’s collection. Thank you for reading this and exploring some of the photos I really liked from this collection!
The West Virginia and Regional History Center extends an open invitation to celebrate the opening of the new exhibition, “Women Making History: Showcasing the West Virginia Feminist Activist Collection,” on Monday, October 16, at 5 p.m. in WVU’s Downtown Library.
The program begins at 5 p.m. with tours of the exhibit in the History Center and a concurrent reception in the Milano Room. At 6 p.m., WVU Professor Emerita Judith Stitzel and Jessie Wilkerson, associate professor of history in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, will deliver remarks in the Milano Room. Following the speakers, the exhibit will remain open for viewing until 8 p.m.
The West Virginia & Regional History Center recently acquired three original manuscripts written by the famous author, activist, and native West Virginian Pearl S. Buck. The acquisition includes a review of the book Japan Over Asia by William Henry Chamberlain and a draft of an unpublished short story entitled “Mother Without Child.” Perhaps the most notable piece in the acquisition is a possibly-unpublished article called “Letter to a Girl.” These three manuscripts will soon be added to the WVRHC’s Pearl S. Buck Papers collection, A&M #0727.
Pearl S. Buck was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia in 1892. However, she spent most of her childhood and young adulthood in China, where her parents worked as Christian missionaries and scholars. It was in China that she first rose to prominence as a writer, publishing her first novels and short stories in the 1920s and 30s. In 1935, Buck’s bestselling House of Earth trilogy portrayed Chinese peasant life with a level of sympathy and understanding previously unseen in Western literature, and its first volume earned her the Pulitzer Prize. She continued to publish critically-acclaimed books and stories throughout her lifetime, though no others reached the same level of prominence as the House of Earth trilogy.
Inspired by her time in China and by her experience raising her developmentally disabled daughter Caroline, Pearl S. Buck spent the latter half of her life working as an activist and philanthropist. She wrote essays in support of the NAACP and Urban League, advocated for birth control with her friend Margaret Sanger, helped develop the United Nations’ laws against genocide, lobbied the U.S. Congress against restrictions on immigration, and campaigned for cultural understanding between Asian and American people. Buck founded the world’s first international and interracial adoption agency, Welcome House. She also established Pearl S. Buck International, a foundation that remains active to this day in providing humanitarian aid to children in several countries. Buck died in 1973 and is buried at her home in Green Hills Farm, Pennsylvania.
Pearl S. Buck’s lifelong dedication to helping women and children is reflected in her “Letter to a Girl.” Buck evidently spent considerable time working on this piece, as the acquisition includes three different drafts of the letter. Her passion for protecting and educating girls comes through on each page, as she sympathetically advises the letter’s recipient — a seventeen-year-old girl — in matters of love, health, and career. Buck responds to the girl’s questions about young love with the frank admission that “sex is the primary concern in every normal woman and every normal man.” She proclaims that people deserve “more and better sex” within loving relationships, but warns the girl against “mere emptying of the glands for physical relief… a woman is not a clay pot.” She asks the girl to focus on her career and education rather than on young men. “In this new age nothing keeps you from being whatever you want to be…” Buck states, adding that, “it has become possible for a woman to consider the presidency of the United States…” Buck concludes her letter to the girl with an inspirational decree: “take care of your precious self… because to unfathomable depths and to immeasurable heights, you are the guardian of the human race.”
Other portions of this letter seem to contradict Buck’s more liberal views of gender. In one section, she advocates for her belief in gender essentialism: the theory that men and women have fundamental mental differences due to their biology. Here, she initially condemns old-fashioned gender roles, decrying “the woman who retreats into her home and family, who shuts her doors and windows to the world,” as well as “the limited male who is himself only when he is with other males, hunting, fishing, and clowning…” Nevertheless, Buck reminds the letter’s recipient that “of course you bear the children, of course you want a home, of course you must be responsible for your home and family…” She also believes in complementarianism, stating that “the most tragic loneliness of life is when man is without woman and woman is without man.”
Bafflingly, the letter includes a declaration that in matters of sex, the woman “is responsible for herself, and for the man.” Buck states repeatedly that it is solely the woman’s duty to say no to premarital sex, to control both the actions and feelings of herself and her partner. “For I do not believe that there is such a thing as rape -” Buck writes, “except perhaps in the very few, proportionately, cases of actual insanity.” She laments the way that girls’ miseducation about sex has led to the birth of 250,000 children outside of wedlock annually at that time, of whom “more than half are born of high school girls.” Why does Buck blame women for this, when men have an equal role in procreation? How can she recall statistics about underage pregnancy while denying the existence of rape? This letter gives no further explanation.
Pearl S. Buck’s “Letter to a Girl” is undated, but context clues indicate that it was written in the 1950s. The first clue is in the letter’s references to the Space Age with its technological revolution in household appliances. It also warns against sex outside of marriage because, “in spite of every precaution, a child is always possible when men and women meet physically.” Thus, this letter was presumably written before the first birth control pill was approved in 1960. Although some parts of this letter advocate traditional gender roles, Buck also calls for women “to organize, perhaps, into cooperative effort,” in a statement foreshadowing the nascent second-wave feminist movement. As a whole, Pearl S. Buck’s “Letter to a Girl” provides a glimpse of the author’s complex, even seemingly contradictory, views of sex and gender during a historic turning point on these issues.
WVU Libraries will launch an Art in the Libraries’ exhibit on library transformation with featured speaker Emily Drabinski, president of the American Library Association, September 12 from 4-6 p.m. at the Downtown Library.
The exhibit, titled “Hacking the Library”, was designed around the hacker ethos in the positive sense regarding the ability to deconstruct and reconstruct information systems. Hacking starts with reconceptualizing libraries beyond the book.
“’Hacking the Library’ invites us to think about our institutions as places of engagement and transformation,” Drabinski said. “As buildings and collections, they may look fixed in place. But as sites of research and study, exploration and imagination, libraries are also always in motion. From the classification structures that group like with like to the copy machines that are always in need of repair, libraries are always subject to change.”
Drabinski is Critical Pedagogy Librarian at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She publishes and presents widely on topics related to knowledge organization, information literacy, and critical perspectives in librarianship. Drabinski edits “Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies,” a book series from Library Juice Press/Litwin Books. She is a contributing writer at “Truthout.”
Written by Ava Stanski, Rare Books Graduate Assistant
When you ask a bibliophile what their favorite thing about books is, you’re likely to get a variety of answers. Some like the smell of old paper, others like the different designs on the covers, and some enjoy the content of the books more than the books themselves. As a graduate assistant with the West Virginia & Regional History Center’s rare books department, I had the opportunity to indulge my love of books as I sorted and catalogued over 6,000 new acquisitions, courtesy of a recent donation by Jim Presgraves, owner of the bookstore, Bookworm and Silverfish. Throughout the semester, I organized the books based on subject, then figured out what was already in the system. Out of those, I compared the condition of the recently acquired copies to those of the older copies, and decided whether to keep or replace them.
Working so closely with such a wide variety of books – some as much as three hundred years old- allowed me to learn about aspects of books and book-making that I had never considered before. I learned about different binding techniques, the different materials used in the covers, and the different aesthetic choices in cover designs and how they differed from decade to decade. I even learned that many cloth covers were patterned to look like leather, since it was more desirable but less financially sustainable for publishers to use. I also learned that every material, font, and color had a story. For example, green covers from a certain time period had trace amounts of arsenic used in the coloring.
Each book I worked with was unique in its own way, and each one will surely stick with me in the future. Thanks to the assistantship, I’m able to appreciate much more about books than I ever thought possible, as well as contribute to the appreciation of others by sorting them into the History Center’s collection and putting together my own exhibit, made up of several different subjects and categories that I found especially interesting. One shelf contains books on natural history, with detailed gilt designs on the covers and intricate diagrams on the pages. The second shelf holds books in other languages: one mathematics book in French, one book on horse care in German, and one translation and analysis of Herodotus’ work in the original Greek.
The final shelf displays two different decades of books and the differences in the designs that make up the covers. The exhibit, as well as the assistantship itself, was a joy to carry out, and hopefully many others will be able to appreciate everything I love about it.
Written by Luke Masa, Doctoral candidate, History & WV Newspaper Project Grant Assistant
In a previous post, I wrote about an early twentieth-century West Virginian newspaper editor, Charles Peyton Darlington (also known as “C.P. Darlin[g]ton”, with or without the “g”), shooting and killing a man in an argument over politics. As it turns out, that man, Woodford (not “Woodward”) Hutton, did not, in fact, perish by Darlington’s bullet. Hutton actually lived another 26 years following the incident. And moreover, Darlington, already 40 years old at the time of the shooting, lived to be 98! Below is a brief attempt at correcting the record and outlining historical methods through biographies of both men.
I realized my mistake while further investigating Darlington’s life after coming across his name once more during the course of my newspaper research. Perhaps it should not have surprised me to encounter him again, since like many West Virginia newspaper editors of his day, Darlington moved around quite a bit, and worked on a lot of papers. For example, before coming to Randolph County, where he shot Hutton, Darlington edited the newspaper that I am currently researching: the Webster Echo out of Webster Springs, Webster County.
In confirming that the editor of the Echo circa 1896 was indeed the same man who would go on to do a brief turn at the Randolph Enterprise and, while there, violently attempt to silence an interlocutor, I used a combination of census records, keyword searches, and obituaries. These sources returned evidence of Darlington’s decades-spanning career in the newspaper business – something I found very odd for an alleged killer to have had. But I could not uncover references to jail time or even a trial with respect to Darlington.
That prompted me to look into Hutton. But it turned out that I had his first name incorrect. That meant that I could not initially find records of him, whether in other papers or elsewhere. So, I looked instead for his father, Colonel Elihu Hutton, who was also referenced in reports of the shooting. Elihu Hutton’s 1900 census record listed members of his household, including a 24-year old son named Woodford. Searching “Woodford Hutton” rather than “Woodward Hutton” in Chronicling America’s online database returned several hits, some dated after 1900. One from 1910, a reprint of a story out of the Grafton Republican in the Fairmont West Virginian, placed Woodford and his father in Grafton that April. What’s more, the 1920 federal census lists Woodford Hutton as a resident of Huttonsville at the time. Thus the Clarksburg Telegram’s report of July 13, 1900 must have been wrong, while Staunton, Virginia’s Spectator and Vindicator got the story (and name) right: as of August 24th of that year, Woodford Hutton, while “dangerously injured” was nevertheless still alive in a Baltimore hospital.
Yet even though Hutton did not die that day in July, his life at that point was unfortunately already nearly halfway over. Hutton’s actual passing occurred in early December 1926, with the Belington Progressive publishing his obituary. Noting that he had just turned 50 after having suffered a long illness, the Progressive reprinted a story from Elkins’ Intermountain which celebrated Hutton’s accomplishments in farming as a cattle rancher, explaining that he had been head of a local Cattlemen’s Association.
And meanwhile, despite being 16 years Hutton’s senior, Darlington ended up outliving the man he nearly killed. Darlington, a native of Weston, seat of Lewis County, started and finished his career in the press there. Upon Darlington’s death in 1958, both the Weston Democrat and its counterpart the Independent published obituaries for him. According to the Democrat, Darlington got his start at that very paper at the age of 16, only nine years after its founding. Darlington himself, in turn, founded the Independent in 1894. He would end up working at, in addition to papers already mentioned, the Logan Banner, Buckhannon Delta, and the Buckhannon Record, among others. The Democrat (but not the Independent) noted Darlington’s time at the Enterprise, which it wrote was only “for a year”, without elaborating any further. Coming back to Weston and the Democrat by 1913, Darlington retired during the First World War, eventually living at Jackson’s Mill with his wife. That he lived nearby the boyhood home of Stonewall Jackson was not his sole connection to the Civil War, however. As a child in 1863 he was among the inhabitants of Weston who were sent to Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio as Union prisoners upon the recapture of the town from Confederate forces.
In the end, I’m glad I caught my error and am pleased to have the opportunity to fix it. Ideally in disciplines like History this process should be a common occurrence, through mechanisms like peer review, though only so much can be caught. Furthermore, historians are not stenographers of the past so much as we are interpreters. Hence, we continuously revise and rewrite, changing not the facts but what we make of them, or in cases like this, discovering new facts which force us to update our knowledge of a given situation. We understand that our sources are fallible and can even be contradictory. This requires us to leave room for the possibility that we may be proven wrong in the future. Therefore I hope this rough sketch of Darlington and Hutton’s lives beyond their brief and nearly fatal meeting serves to better contextualize both West Virginia’s history and how history writing is done.
Wilmer Siegfried Richter was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1891. Growing up, Richter’s interest and talent for drawing were pushed aside by his father who insisted Wilmer and his brother learn the violin and piano. He credits his mother and ninth-grade teacher for pushing him to study art professionally. At 18, Richter secured a job in a photo-engraving art department. He went on to study illustration while traveling across the U.S., throughout Cuba, and along the Panama Canal. When Wilmer returned to Philadelphia, World War I was already in progress. He would eventually be drafted into the infantry and sent to France with no training. In 1918, he was wounded and spent a considerable amount of time at the base hospital before he was sent home with other wounded men. Richter returned to the U.S. with a collection of 5×8 drawings of the war and other street scenes. Wilmer was 102 when he passed in 1993.
Now displayed in the Stealey Manuscripts Reading Room in the WVRHC is one of Richter’s watercolor paintings titled “Sunlight and Shadows-Pennsylvania Farm.” Also having been born in Pennsylvania amongst the rolling hills, the painting captures the warmth and beauty of rural farms that remind me of home. His use of blues, yellows, and greens pairs beautifully, while a curious deer peeks out between the trees.
The diaries of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, showed that Civil War soldiers found many ways to cope with the stresses of army life (see A&M 4538). While many soldiers filled their time through socially and morally acceptable activities like letter writing and reading, soldiers also found entertainment through other means. Although war was a serious business, alcohol, gambling, and humor were ways for these men to break the tension, suffering, and death around them.
Often soldiers were found drinking liquor in camp. One reporter noticed that upon pay day, soldiers immediately exchanged a portion of their pay for liquor. He noted with disgust how many soldiers were seen in the streets, “lying in the gutters, or on the doorsteps, in a state of beastly intoxication.” The number of intoxicated men had also led to some violence in the form of riots. As noted in the previous post, Captain Johnson also commented with disgust when he encountered hundreds of intoxicated Union soldiers in Alexandria, clobbering and beating one another. He frequently commented upon the presence of alcohol in camp, among the men and his fellow officers, and the measures he and others took to keep them in line.
In February 1862, Johnson recounted how the regimental commander, Charles A. DeVilliers, became so exasperated with soldiers’ drunkenness that he ordered the alcohol in a nearby warehouse to be poured out and emptied in the town’s streets. Desperate soldiers soon found the “large puddles” of liquor and scooped up the alcohol into their canteens. DeVilliers ordered Johnson to station two soldiers to “guard the puddles.” Only an hour later, soldiers brought two drunken men to Johnson’s attention. Johnson saw that the one intoxicated man was one of the very same soldiers “I had stationed to keep others from drinking.” The temptation had apparently become too great for him to resist.
However, as demonstrated with the Harper’s Weekly print (above), soldiers found in a state of intoxication could be subject to punishment. In this print, a soldier wears a barrel with writing that reads, “Too fond of whisky, forged an order on the surgeon.” Soldiers desperate for alcohol would go to desperate measures–however, they had to be willing to face the consequences, including possible humiliation and punishment in front of their comrades.
Gambling and card-playing could accompany drinking, serving as outlets to relieve the stresses of war for some soldiers. Johnson noted in late January 1862, “The boys say they have a very good time generally playing cards drinking whiskey.” Soldiers grumbled when they were without the comforts of alcohol and cards to help them with the ruggedness and boredom of camp life. Some enlisted men complained to Johnson when he reprimanded them for playing cards after the playing of Taps at night. They argued that “the officers do it [play cards] and why not let them do the same.” Johnson noted that as he listened to his men’s complaints, his fellow officers were “playing [cards] in our quarters” that same moment. The men bristled at the unfair double standard.
Johnson looked down upon officers who spent too much time in immoral activities and were an unfit example for their men. Johnson frequently commented on officers he disliked and who were too fond of alcohol or were corrupt. For example, he described the regimental quartermaster as a man who “knows as much about his business now as he ever will know,” implying in his following sentence that the quartermaster knew very little. He criticized the quartermaster as a man who “Pays a great deal of attention to drinking whiskey & running after wimmen [women,] playing card & C.” instead of his soldierly duties. Whether Johnson confronted his officers directly or confined his commentary to his diary remains unknown.
Soldiers also found clever and humorous ways to get what they wanted. In July 1862, Johnson had paid a local citizen for “huckel berries” and some coffee. However, once the man set down “several jugs of milk” and left them temporarily, Johnson took the milk for his own use and “in the inter time filled his jugs with water.” Upon his return, “he tried to sell his milk but of course the boys did not want to purchase” since they knew better. Less than a month later, a Union soldier of Johnson’s regiment “dressed in a Butternut suit,” and accompanied by his comrades acting as “guards,” entered the home of a Confederate family, pretending that he was a Confederate prisoner. According to Johnson, “after hearing his tale the old woman & daughter just flew around to acomade [accommodate]” him and handed him “a good supply [of] some whiskey & wine.” The men were quite glad “that the delusion worked well.”
Soldiers could be very daring in their pranks and put themselves in danger. In August 1863, one soldier thought it might be funny to provoke the Confederate soldiers on picket duty across the river. The Union soldier “was attending to a call of nature” and then “exhibited his posterior[,] asking them if they had ever saw a Yankee Gun Boat and if not to satisfy their curiosity by looking at his ass.” In response to this insult, the Confederates “immediately fired on him,” but he escaped safely, as “he laughingly got out of their range.”
George Johnson’s diaries show that soldiers turned to different means to alleviate their burdens and enjoy themselves in spite of the danger. They could be clever and daring, intoxicated and unruly, and many other things. Johnson’s diary entries show the daily experiences of soldiers who often lived on the wild side.
For further information about George Johnson’s diaries, see A&M 4538.
The performance will center around “Women Speak: Volume Eight,” a lavish mix of Appalachian female voices – northern, central, southern, Affrilachian, Indigenous, AppalAsian, LQBTQ, those differently abled and with developmental differences, emerging and well established – every voice raised in tribute to Appalachian endurance, honor, courage, love of family, community and the land. Copies are available online at www.sheilanagigblog.com.
Publications like Harper’s Weekly and Currier & Ives tended to romanticize the life of a Civil War soldier by painting sentimental pictures of camp. Such sentimentalism can be seen in “The Soldier’s Dream of Home” (pictured below). Here the handsome soldier sleeps peacefully, his hand resting by his opened letters, dreaming of his wife and child. Such images reinforced the depiction of Union soldiers as loyally steadfast, responsible family men. The camp scene in the background looks quiet with a few soldiers sitting underneath the flag. Others gather around the cannon with their rifles in hand, perhaps on guard duty. Even in the midst of war, there is little sense of fear, chaos, or violence, although the bright red blanket under the soldier may foreshadow future bloodshed. Nevertheless, it appears to be a more idyllic setting than other wartime scenes. Hand-painted lithographs tended to show a civilian’s conception of war rather than the brutality that soldiers experienced on the battlefield.
Captain George W. Johnson of the 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry had no sentimental picture of soldier life. His diary transcriptions (see A&M 4538) present descriptions of camp life, soldier conduct, and battlefield violence that are often brutally honest. His accounts are not romanticized but show that these were real men, including a few teenagers with an eye for mischief, who had their strengths and flaws. He details accounts of overindulgence in alcohol, sexual promiscuity, and crude soldier behavior and pranks in camp. In this Victorian Era, such subjects were socially taboo to mention, much less discuss. Yet, since Johnson never intended for anyone to read his private thoughts, he recorded his observations in an entirely direct and blunt manner.
George Johnson was about 35 years old when he enlisted in the 11th Ohio Infantry in June 1861. He resided in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his wife, Sarah Hardin Johnson, and at least six young children. It must have been difficult for him to decide to go to war for his country when he had so many young children at home. Nevertheless, when he enlisted on June 19, 1861, he committed himself to serving three years in the army. He began his service as a second lieutenant in Company K. About six months later, he was transferred to and promoted as first lieutenant in Company A in early January 1862. He was wounded in his right side during the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862, and was promoted to captain of Company K two months later. His wound from the battle later prompted him to offer his resignation in December 1863 and bothered him for the rest of his life.
As an officer, it was Johnson’s responsibility to ensure order and discipline, as well as act as a role model for his men. In several entries, he listed soldiers’ names and their companies, perhaps to keep track of them for certain duties or other matters. He noted other officers who failed to serve as good examples for their men, and how men reacted to bad officers. One soldier, after drinking too much on the 4th of July, got ahold of “a large sheet of fools cap” paper and wrote on it “Kiss My Ass.” He then sealed the paper in an envelope to give to his captain. However, such criticism could put soldiers at risk of charges for a court martial. Colonel Charles DeVilliers, a man whom Johnson despised and who organized the regiment in its beginning, was brought to court martial and discharged for multiple reasons, including the theft of civilian property. One of the charges brought against him was that he berated his fellow officers as cowardly several times in front of all of the soldiers in camp. Most notably, he insulted another officer by declaring, “You Lieut Mc Abee are a coward[.] you have more shit in your breeches than in your guts.” Profanity directed at officers in front of other men was not to be tolerated. If use of profanity was not addressed by officers, it encouraged the enlisted men to disrespect their officers as well.
Johnson observed widespread alcohol abuse and noted how he and other officers struggled to keep their men in line. In early February 1862, he declared, “After I get the command the privates have a good time but the Commissioned Officers have to come down to the scratch,” detailing how two men, presumably commissioned officers, stumbled upon an ongoing drill “staving drunk and not keeping still.” Another officer “had them put in the Guard House.” In another more shocking instance in August 1862, he recorded his venture into the town of Alexandria, Virginia, where he “saw about 800 drunken soldiers” in the Union Army of the Potomac and observed many soldiers fighting with “fists, some bayonets & some guns.” He then added, “I never seen anything worse before,” showing how things could spiral out of control. However, he proudly noted that all of the privates in the 11th Ohio were present at regimental roll call and had not participated in the fighting. He was determined to keep order and discipline in his men.
Johnson’s accounts bring much light to aspects of camp and soldiering that were not often widely talked about. Although these events happened over 150 years ago, Johnson’s descriptions bring the soldiers’ actions and words to life and make their lives seem less distant.
For further information about Johnson’s diaries, see A&M 4538.
 “George Johnson,” Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census, Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio; [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
 Historical Data Systems, comp. U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.
 George Johnson, diary entry, July 4, 1862, A&M 4538, Civil War Diary Transcriptions and Related Material of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia, https://archives.lib.wvu.edu/repositories/2/resources/6910.
West Virginian Arthur J. “Pete” Ballard (1931-2017) liked to paint with vivid colors, especially when it came to his many paintings of various flowers. His “Iris” painting shows his inclination towards bright colors, especially in his use of different shades of green. The white of the iris makes a sharp contrast to the vibrant green. The white petals, tinged in blue, indigo, and purple, draw the viewer into the life-like painting.
At a 2000 art exhibition, Pete Ballard remarked, “Occasionally, I’ve had my green backgrounds questioned,” as many of his paintings of flowers contain green settings. He found that other background colors never quite fit as well as he liked the color green. As he mulled over whether to use another color, he looked outside and saw green in everything alive, as “the hills were green, so were the trees; the grass was green, so were all the leaves. God used it. Why try to improve.” Green was the color of life and energy, so Ballard decided to keep using green in his paintings, especially when it came to his paintings of flowers.
Pete Ballard used green to show the vibrant colors of nature and liked to paint the beauty and colorfulness of nature through his many flower paintings. As the weather (slowly) warms, one looks forward to the re-appearance of green and flowers as spring comes around the corner.
 Pete Ballard, “Memories and Mementos: A Collection of Paintings and Commentaries,” 2000, Box 2, “2000 Exhibition of My Paintings at Gertrude Smith House-Mt. Airy, NC.” Arthur J. Ballard, Costume Artist and Curator, Papers, A&M 3869, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.
This award is presented annually for outstanding research papers in the humanities or social sciences. Winners will be awarded $1,000 and be recognized publicly by the University and the Libraries.
To be eligible, applicants must be a student enrolled at West Virginia University as a full-time undergraduate student in good academic standing; conducted original research using resources from the West Virginia University Libraries; and used this research to produce a paper that reflects individual work, not that of a group or class project.
“Ingram’s writing gives depth and perspective to those deep vulnerabilities that make us human. In his hands, we’re led into a poignant rendering of modern life with all its foibles, complexities, and quiet, hard-won joys,” Humanities Center Director Renée Nicholson said.
Ingram’s stories, essays, and journalism have appeared in a number of publications, including PHOEBE, The North American Review, The Smart Set and Medium’s Human Parts. Ingram is also an associate professor of instruction at Temple University, where he teaches courses in creative writing, editing and publishing, and first-year writing.
An all-male marching band from Keyser, West Virginia physically defended suffragists during a historic parade at our nation’s capital in March 1913. Did they return to Washington for another round in 1917?
No history of the equal suffrage movement is complete without a description of the violence against women who paraded through Washington, D.C. in March 1913. At the local level, however, our understanding of this watershed event remains incomplete. Luckily, contemporaneous newspapers—like those digitized through the West Virginia Newspapers project—provide meaningful insight into how participants expressed suffrage activism before and after this historic parade.
This is especially true for activists from rural areas. For example, newly digitized resources prove that an all-male community band from Keyser, WV wielded musical instruments against the riotous mob that attacked the 1913 equal suffrage parade. Moreover, a mysterious photograph appears to indicate that they also participated in a second suffrage protest in 1917. This post offers recently discovered proof of the band’s first date with destiny, and compelling evidence of their second.
Descending on DC
Organized by Alice Paul and the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), the 1913 march on Washington was scheduled for March 3, i.e., the day before the first inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson. Excitement over this first national suffrage march on the capital had been building for months, but it exploded into a full media frenzy in the final three weeks as “General” Rosalie Gardiner Jones led a group of several hundred “suffrage hikers” on a long march out of New York City and toward Washington. From West Virginia alone, over 100 women from the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association, the Charleston Equal Suffrage League, the Wheeling Women’s Suffrage Association, and other organizations journeyed to Washington.
The parade and demonstration included 5,000 women from various racial and social backgrounds, but it also included several hundred men. For example, the Oakland Republican reported that men belonging to a community band from Keyser, West Virginia would “take part in both the suffragette and inaugural parades.”
The band’s expenses were covered through the assistance of Jacob Gabriel Moody, a Keyser native who directed the National Guard’s 2nd Regiment Band of Washington, DC. They may have also received support from NAWSA, which sent letters to bandmasters across the nation inviting them to join the parade. This was a smart move. Not only did such bands add an air of celebration to the event, but they would end up on the frontlines of an historic clash.
Clearing a path through history
The afternoon of March 3 was warm and overcast, with little wind. As the parade started down Pennsylvania Avenue, the 153-member 2nd Regiment National Guard band played rousing suffrage songs. Though impressive, they were outnumbered by 100,000 onlookers, including scores of drunken rowdies angered by the demands of the suffragists. However, the 2nd Regiment was not alone. The College Equal Suffrage League of New York and the New York State Woman Suffrage Party brought smaller bands, while all-female musicians comprised the 23-member Missouri Ladies Military Band. As for the 26-man Keyser Municipal Band—aka McIlwee’s Band—they marched with the hikers led by “General” Jones.
Seeing the crowd swell, parade organizers asked the Missouri band to move forward, start playing, and clear a path. The band did so from a position immediately behind their horse-mounted Grand Marshal, Jenny May Burleson of Texas. Still, spectators shouted their disapproval—and the 575 police officers standing along the parade route were unable to keep the peace. After ten blocks of slow progress, the flimsy crowd barriers failed, and the turbulent pressure of what Burleson called a “horrible, howling mob” squeezed the parade to single-file formation.
The surging mob tripped, grabbed, spat on, and shoved the female marchers. Signs and banners were seized and shredded. Flowers were plucked from coats, and flags were snatched and burned. Men taunted the marchers with insults such as “old hens,” while women of the West Virginia delegation were derided as dirty “snake hunters” and “coal diggers.”
It wasn’t just the women being attacked. One man who marched with Jones’ “suffrage hikers” struggled to keep the American flag he carried from being dragged through the dirt. Social status did not provide any advantage, either. When a congressman’s wife asked a police officer to clear a path, he shouted, “If my wife was where you are, I’d break her head!”
Despite this chaos, many marchers fought back. Inez Millholland, who rode a white horse near the front of the parade, claimed to have “slashed a drunken lout across the face with her riding crop…”
McIlwee’s Band also took a few shots. According to the Keyser Tribune, “The Missouri Girl Band, headed by Mrs. Champ Clark, was directly ahead of the Keyser Band, and the unruly crowd, taking advantage of the girls, succeeded in closing the line and marching was impossible. At this time the Keyser boys took things into their own hands and forced the mob back. Ginger’s big bass made a good battering ram and by strenuous work and the assistance of a squad of Boy Scouts, the band maintained a small space and kept the line moving until aid came from the cavalry troops. . .”
The large man behind that “big bass” was tuba player Forrest Guy “Ginger” Davis, who also served as the Keyser Chief of Police. Davis was a lifelong law enforcement officer elected to three terms as the Sherriff of Mineral County (as a Democrat in 1932, 1940, and 1948). He also served more than thirty years as Keyser Chief of Police. Known for his energetic and tactful approach to policing, Davis was already in his second decade as the band’s business manager.
Alongside Davis fought Mineral County Sherriff, Charles Ervin “Mighty” Nethken, a former standout football player for the WVU Mountaineers who was renowned for his physical strength. Nethken won the Stephen B. Elkins gold medal as the Mountaineer’s best player after the 1895 football season and is listed as a guard on WVU’s official All-Time team. In the school’s Monticola yearbook, Nethken was compared to legendary strongman Eugen “Mighty” Sandow, and the nickname stuck even after he graduated. Like Davis, Mighty Nethken served as the Mineral County Sheriff three times (elected as a Democrat in 1904, 1912, and 1920). After his third term, he also served for 25 years as a judge on the WV Public Service Commission.
Between these imposing lawmen, a few members of the Keyser Fire Department, and several railroad employees, McIlwee’s Band had plenty of muscle to withstand the onslaught. They may also have benefitted from teamwork skills developed while playing together on the Keyer baseball team.
As for the Boy Scouts, around 1,500 were brought in to help the police. Averaging just 14-years in age, they were armed with long wood staves, which they used to hold back the crowd, then to form stretchers for carrying wounded women to ambulances that “came and went constantly for six hours.” Six squads of young men from the Maryland Agricultural College (now called the University of Maryland) also fought the mob. Nonetheless, at least 100 injured women were transported to the local Emergency Hospital.
In the days after the parade, national headlines contrasted the peaceful suffragists against the violent mob. More details emerged as a congressional committee investigated the failures of the Washington police. Among those who testified was “Mrs. Champ Clark,” i.e., the wife of the Speaker of the House. Most shockingly, the committee concluded that off-duty police officers encouraged attacks against the parading women.
As for McIlwee’s Band, the Keyser Tribune reported, “After the parade the band was publicly lauded by Miss Millholland, General Jones, and other leaders.”
The band also played concerts during the inaugural festivities. According to the Keyser Tribune, “In the Inaugural parade, the band headed the Civic Division and led the President’s own club, the Wilson Democratic League, from Trenton, NJ. This was certainly an honorary position and one that might have been given to a larger band.”
The famous Keyser band
Under Professor William H. “Will” McIlwee, who was in his second decade of leading the Keyser band, local musicians played at fairs, athletic events, church revivals, lectures, fundraisers, weddings, funerals, and more. In concert settings, they were called McIlwee’s Concert Orchestra, and their weekly summer performances from an electrified bandstand on Prep Hill in Keyser were attended by as many as 4,000 locals in 1914. They also toured on a limited basis. For example, the band entertained attendees at the 1915 reunion of the Grand Army of the Republic in Washington, as well as the 1916 reunion of Confederates at Franklin, WV.
As one admiring Keyserite wrote, “The Band is the greatest institution of life; when it plays all individual differences cease; we are no longer Republican or Democrats; Prohibitionists or Socialists; Methodists or Baptists; Catholics or Masons, we are humans of a common brotherhood, ready to put our shoulders to the common wheel and boost our town or our state or our country higher into the limelight of prestige and prosperity.”
A commitment to equality
After the 1913 parade violence, Mighty Nethken appears to have stopped performing with McIlwee’s Band. However, he continued to speak in support of equal suffrage. For example, when Keyser hosted a suffrage rally in July 1916, McIlwee’s Band played first, then Nethken introduced a young activist who’d marched with them in Washington parade.
As the Keyser Tribune described the scene, “Notwithstanding the rain Miss Eudora Ramsey… addressed a large crowed on Main street last Monday night on behalf of the equal suffrage amendment. McIlwee’s band put the people in a receptive mood, when Sheriff Nethken gallantly introduced the fair speaker …”
When Democratic gubernatorial candidate John J. Cornwell campaigned at the Keyser Music Hall in October 1916, he also sought the support of women. For months, Cornwell publicly courted the support of the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association, and now that he was teaming with a band that marched with suffragists, advanced notice for his Keyser speech stated, “Ladies are especially invited. McIlwee’s Concert Band will furnish music.”
Cornwell even used the front page of the newspaper he owned, the Hampshire Review, to endorse Mighty Nethken in the Democratic primary for the second congressional district seat vacated by Nethkin’s political mentor, William Gay Junior” Brown, Jr., who died in March 1916. Congressman Brown’s widow was suffragist Izetta Jewel (1883-1878) who later became the first American woman to deliver a seconding speech for a major presidential nominee when she supported John W. Davis (1873-1955) of West Virginia. While campaigning for Davis at the Keyser Music Hall on the day before the 1924 election, she was joined by Nethken. Again, McIlwee’s Band provided the music.
Solving a photographic mystery
In January 1917, the Piedmont Herald reported, “The committee in charge of the inauguration ceremonies at Washington are corresponding with the famous McIlwee band of this place, with the view of securing them for the next inauguration This band made a great hit at the last inauguration in leading the suffrage parade.”
The invitation was also reported by the Mineral Daily News, which added, “Of course the Band will make a contract if there is nothing in the way. The Keyser band made such a hit last inauguration that the committee has given them first consideration.”
As March arrived, the Piedmont Herald confirmed, “Chief F.G. Davis has the arrangements nearly perfected for the McIlwee Concert Band to attend the inauguration…”
Nonetheless, unlike the band’s heroics before Woodrow Wilson’s first inauguration, their performance during his second one did not receive any post-event press coverage. The reasons for this omission were multifaced. First, the Keyser band was not listed in the official inaugural parade formation. This suggests they were in town for auxiliary events, such as another historic suffrage gathering. Second, there is evidence that their association with suffrage negatively impacted band members as political candidates.
To understand, consider that West Virginia voters narrowly elected Democrat John J. Cornwell as their new governor in 1916. After Cornwell’s election, hundreds of citizens from Mineral County braved a rainstorm to travel to his home in Romney where 1,500 heard him give a short address. Once there, they congratulated and serenaded the victorious Democrat, led again by McIlwee’s Concert Band and speaker, Mighty Nethken.
However, Nethkin was not a winner that year. He lost his congressional primary in a landslide. Moreover, in the general election, Ginger Davis lost his first run for Mineral County Sheriff. These stinging defeats marked the only political losses either man ever experienced, and it’s possible that their support of an equal suffrage measure that lost by a greater than 2 to 1 margin among Mineral County’s all-male electorate contributed to these losses.
Local support for the band also seemed to wane. After a smaller than anticipated crowd attended one of their concerts in 1916, Mineral Daily News editor William Henry Barger scolded his readers, stating, “If some cheap, ragtime and dance orchestra from out of town had given the concert, there is no doubt but that the auditorium would have been filled, but when an orchestra, probably the best in three states, and an orchestra that belongs to Keyser offers a concert of standard world-famous selections only a few come. Strange, isn’t it?”
As an organization led by Democrats, band members may have also been reluctant to publicize plans to protest a Democratic president’s opposition to nationwide equal suffrage, even after it was endorsed in the 1916 Democratic Party Platform. Nonetheless, evidence suggests this is exactly what they did.
As with the 1913 parade, the 1917 White House picket was planned by Alice Paul. It began on January 10—without McIlwee’s Band—but during the week preceding the inaugural celebration, organizers planned to increase public pressure through what they labelled, “The Siege of Jericho.” For this, they would need trumpets.
According to the National Woman’s Party (aka Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage), protestors intended to dramatize the sixth chapter of Joshua by marching around the White House for six days, “Then, on the seventh day—next Sunday to be exact—with their number swelled by thousands of women from all parts of the country, they shall compass the ‘city of Watchful Waiting’ seven times, and seven priestesses, bearing the suffrage ark, ‘shall blow with trumpets.’
“‘And it shall come to pass that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout and the walls of the city shall fall down flat.’”
However, the pre-inauguration picket did not draw nearly as many participants (or spectators) as the 1913 parade. For example, the West Virginia woman who intended to carry her state’s banner around the White House grounds for this siege did not make it and was replaced by a local.
There were three main reasons for lower numbers. First, the picket went on for months, so that only a portion of the total number protestors were active at any given time. Second, the “siege” elements were downplayed after March 1, when an intercepted German telegram made it clear to most Americans that the nation was headed for war. Third, a rainstorm pelted the women who did picket—and the two bands that joined them were thwarted by a continuous downpour that “silenced the drums” and “strangled” the horns.
As a result, the drenched marchers made only four trips around the White House grounds, and when the President and Mrs. Wilson crossed the picket line in their limousine, they refused to even look at the protestors.
In her memoir, suffrage activist Dorothy Stevens recalled, “It was a day of high wind and stinging, icy rain… when a thousand women, each wearing a banner, struggled against the gale to keep their banners erect. It is always impressive to see at a thousand people march, but the impression was imperishable when these thousand women marched in rain-soaked garments, hands bare, gloves roughly tourn by the sticky varnish from the banner poles and the streams of water running down the poles into the palms of their hands. It was a sight to impress even the most hardened spectator who had seen all the various forms of the suffrage agitation in Washington… Two bands whose men managed to continue their spirited music in the driving rain led the march…Vida Millholland led the procession carrying her sister’s last words, ‘Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”
The suffragists had their own band led by Lavinia Dock. Doris Stevens played the snare drum; and before her death in November 1916, Inez Milholland played accordion. In her memoir, however, Stevens specifically referenced two bands of men who played during the White House picket of Sunday, March 4, 1917.
One photograph taken on the day of the March 4, 1917 picket shows an unnamed band marching around the executive mansion while women carry flags and banners behind them. The rainy scene includes policemen in raincoats, a drummer with his own coat draped over his instrument, and a large tuba player. To those familiar with the famous Keyser band, the tuba player resembles Ginger Davis, and the drummer is a ringer for Professor McIlwee.
Although this photographic evidence is not conclusive, it strongly suggests that music at the “Great Picket” of March 4, 1917 was provided by McIlwee’s Band. If so, this second appearance in support of suffrage activists says even more about the band’s convictions than their heroics during the 1913 parade. One might even conclude that a second appearance places the all-male Keyser band in the vanguard of grassroots support for suffrage.
The perseverance of marching suffragists against opponents at all levels of society—from politicians to drunken rowdies—gained them numerous allies. For example, national headlines about violence at the 1913 equal suffrage parade convinced many that the suffrage movement would not be easily derailed, while photographs of women arrested for “obstructing traffic” during the 1917 White House picket campaign, including some from West Virginia, did much to convince the public that activist women were on the right side of history.
Although progress toward equal suffrage slowed during World War I, Governor Cornwell called a special session for March 1920, during which the WV state legislature ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Six months later—after 36 hard fought states ratified the historic amendment— a woman’s right to vote became federal law. As described above, McIlwee’s Band played a supporting role in winning that right, and their brassy defense of equal suffrage deserves remembrance as part of West Virginia’s feminist heritage.
Blog contributed by Greg Leatherman. Greg is a Keyser native now residing in Florida.
Future researchers interested in this topic may benefit from examining relevant records from NAWSA, the National Woman’s Party, and WV suffrage organizations. Further photographic corroboration may also be possible using sources available through the WVU Library Systems, the Library of Congress, and family records.
McIlwee’s band was not the only musical outlet for these men. For example, by 1916, saxophonist Walter S. Decker found a national publisher for his musical compositions. Another member from a later iteration of the band, Howard S. Pyles, became a longtime orchestral conductor for the Columbia Broadcasting Company.
A few bandmembers were not from Mineral County, but neighboring Garrett County, Maryland, where they played in the Mountain City Band of Oakland under the visiting instruction of Prof. McIlwee. On occasion, Keyser band members (e.g., Davis, Decker, and Schaffenaker) also supported the Mountain City Band, as they did when joining them to entertain a Democratic political meeting at Oakland in 1911 Compared to Mineral County, Garrett County was a suffrage hotspot. As a result of this relationship, before the 1917 picket, the McIlwee’s Keyser Band added talented cornet player, Roy F.T. Hinebaugh as a permanent member. Hinebaugh—along with Charles I. Liller, Calvin H. Echard, Wallace “Wall” E. Brown—also marched with the Keyser band in the 1913 parade as guest musicians from the Mt. City Band. This was a semi-regular occurrence, as these same men (and others) also temporarily joined what the Oakland Republican called the “famous Keyser band” in 1910, 1915, 1917, etc. Some switched between the two bands, as needed. For example, Dennis T. Rasche, was listed as an official member of the Keyser band in 1914, yet he was again a visiting musician from the Mt. City Band in 1915.
Doris Stevens provided a list of songs played during the 1917 picket: ‘Forward Be Our Watchword;’ ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic;’ ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers;’ ‘The Pilgrim’s Chorus,’ from Tannhäuser; ‘The Coronation March; from Le prophète; the ‘Russian National Hymn;’ and ‘The Marseillaise.”
This research was made possible thanks to digital resources provided by the West Virginia Newspapers site hosted by Potomac State College of West Virginia University.
Pittsburgh Press. 28 Oct 1894, p. 13; 21 Mar 1895, p. 1; 03 Jan 1896, p. 4;
Wheeling Daily Register. 08 Jan 1896, p. 1;
Mineral Daily News/Mineral Daily News-Tribune. 26 Jul 1912, p. 2; 07 Aug 1912, p. 1; 10 Aug 1912, p. 1;15 May 1913, p. 1; 16 May 1913, p. 1; 27 May 1913, p. 1; 28 May 1913, p. 1; 01 Jul 1913, p. 1; 08 Jul 1913, p. 1; 04 Nov 1913, p. 1; 13 Apr 1914, p. 1; 07 May 1914, p. 1; 01 Jul 1914, p. 1; 09 Sep 1914, p. 1; 18 Sep 1914, p. 1; 19 Sep 1914, pg. 1; 21 Jun 1915, p. 1; 02 Mar 1916, p. 2; 22 Mar 1916, p. 2; 04 Apr 1916, p. 3; 22 May 1916, p. 2; 03 Jun 1916, p. 4; 05 Jun 1916, p. 2; 14 Jul 1916, p. 1; 15 Aug 1916, p. 1; 19 Sep 1916, p. 1; 18 Oct 1916, p. 4; 21 Oct 1916, p. 01; 23 Oct 1916, p. 03; 24 Oct 1916, p. 1; 25 Oct 1916, p. 1; 26 Oct 1916, p. 1; 23 Nov 1916, p. 2; 03 Jan 1917, p. 1; 23 Jan 1917, p. 1; 24 May 1917, p. 4; 04 Jun 1917, p. 1; 26 Jun 1917, p. 2; 25 Oct 1917, p. 1; 29 Nov 1918, p. 2; 02 May 1920, p. 2; 01 Nov 1920, p. 1; 03 Nov 1920, p. 2; 02 Jan 1924, p. 1; 04 Apr 1924, p. 1; 07 Mar 1925, p. 2; 27 Nov 1925, p. 1; 02 Sep 1932, p. 1; 11 Feb 1936, p. 1; 24 Jun 1936, p. 1; 07 Jun 1955, p. 2; 03 Apr 2003, p. 1;
Tampa Tribune. 29 Dec 1912, p. 8; 05 Mar 1917, p. 3;
Dunkirk Evening Observer. 28 Feb 1913, p. 1;
Piedmont Herald. 07 Mar 1913, p. 7; 11 Dec 1914, p. 10; 20 Oct 1916, p. 5; 02 Mar 1917, p. 9; 14 Jul 1916, p. 1; 21 Jul 1916, p. 5; 02 Mar 1917, p. 9; 02 Aug 1918, p. 5; 31 Oct 1924, p. 1; 03 Nov 1938, p. 8; 10 Nov 1932, p. 1; 10 Aug 1939, p. 6;
Keyser Tribune. 20 Oct 1911, p. 2; 22 Nov 1912, p. 2; 20 Dec 1912; 07 Feb 1913, p. 4, 5; 07 Mar 1913, pp.1, 5; 14 Mar 1913, p. 2; 21 Mar 1913, p. 1; 11 Jul 1913, p. 1; 12 Dec 1913, p. 1; 26 Dec 1913, p. 1; 25 Sep 1914, p. 2; 11 Dec 1914, p. 1; 12 Nov 1915, p. 2; 14 Apr 1916, p. 4; 26 May 1916, p. 2; 21 Jul 1916, p. 2; 22 Sep 1916, p. 2; 20 Oct 1916, p. 2;
Washington Post. 05 Mar 1913, p. 3; 18 Mar 1913, p. 2; 04 Mar 1917, p. 6; 05 Mar 1917, p. 2;
Fairmont West Virginian. 25 Mar 1913, p. 1; 10 Sep 1917, p. 4;
Kenosha Evening News. 26 Dec 1912, p. 4;
Washington Herald. 27 Dec 1912, p. 4;27 Feb 1913., pp. 1-2; 04 Mar 1913, pp. 1, 4; 06 Mar 1917, p. 1;
Buffalo Sunday Morning News. 19 Jan 1913, p. 18;
Pittsburgh Daily Post. 04 Mar 1913, p. 1; 03 Aug 1916, pg. 1;
Baltimore Sun. 04 Mar 1913, p. 2; 11 Mar 1913, p. 1; 23 May 1918, p. 3;
Baltimore Evening Sun. 04 Mar 1913, pp. 3, 6.
Wheeling Intelligencer. 04 Mar 1913, pp. 1, 8; 05 Mar 1917, p. 4;
St. Louis Post Dispatch. 04 Mar 1913, p. 6.
Nashville Tennessean. 04 Mar 1913, p. 1;
Alexandrian Gazette. 04 Mar 1913, p. 1;
Clarksburg Daily Telegram. 04 Mar 1913, pp. 1, 9;
Moberly Weekly Monitor. 04 Mar 1913. p. 1;
Houston Post. 07 Mar 1913, p. 1;
Washington Times. 10 Mar 1913, p. 7;13 Mar 1913, p. 1; 16 Apr 1913, pp. 1-2; 02 Mar 1917, p. 5; 05 Mar 1917, p. 10;
Bluefield Daily Telegraph. 11 Mar 1913, p. 1;
Washington Evening Star. 06 Mar 1913, pp. 1,2; 17 Mar 1913, p. 1;25 Feb 1917, p. 17; 04 Mar 1917, pp. 4, 14,15; 05 Mar 1917, p. 2; 06 Mar 1917, p. 15;
Saskatoon Daily Star. 26 Mar 1913, p. 4;
Oakland Republican. 21 Jul 1910, p. 5; 23 Feb 1911, p. 5; 06 Mar 1913, p. 5; 10 Jun 1915, p. 4; 24 May 1917, p. 1; 11 Oct 1917, p. 4; 18 Dec 1924, p. 5; 02 Mar 1933, p. 3;
Hampshire Review. 24 May 1916, p. 1; 31 May 1916, p. 1; 15 Nov 1916, p. 1; 22 Nov 1916, p. 1; 25 Feb 1920, p. 1;
Shepherdstown Register. 19 Oct 1916, p. 4; 19 Oct 1916, p. 4;
Clarksburg Exponent. 24 Oct 1917, p. 4;
Preston County Journal. 10 Dec 1914, p. 1; 30 Sep 1920, p. 5;
Cumberland News. 06 Jan 1953, p. 7;
Mountain Echo. 30 Oct 1952, p. 3; 28 Jun 1956, p. 4; 15 May 1958, p. 3;
Stevens, Doris (2008). Jailed for Freedom: The Story of the Militant American Suffragist Movement, pp. 92-100. Lakeside Press, R.R. Donnelly & Sons, USA.
“Boy Scouts at the 1913 Suffrage Parade,” National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/boy-scouts-at-the-1913-suffrage-parade.htm (accessed 02/12/2023)/;
“West Virginia and the 19th Amendment,” National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/articles/west-virginia-women-s-history.htm (accessed 02/15/2023);
“What the Boy Scouts Did at the Inauguration,” Boys Life. April 1913, pp. 2-4;
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