Ask A Librarian

ERA and NOW Pins in the Lillian Waugh Papers

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
February 26th, 2024

Written by Madisyn Magers, Graduate Assistant for the West Virginia Feminist Activist Collection 

       The Equal Right Amendment (ERA) is an amendment to the United States Constitution that would prohibit sex discrimination and bring equality of rights under the law to anyone, regardless of sex. The amendment was first proposed in 1923. Throughout the years following the amendments’ introduction, enough states have ratified the amendment (passage by two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and approval by three-fourths of the states), but they did not meet the specified deadline, so the amendment is still not a part of the U.S. Constitution.  Many states ratified the amendment during the 1970s, including West Virginia which ratified the amendment in 1972, but some states ratified the amendment as late as 2020. 

       Lillian Waugh was professor of Women’s Studies at West Virginia University, a member of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and one of the founders of the Morgantown chapter of the organization. The National Organization for Women is a non-profit organization that is centered on women’s rights. Waugh was active in NOW and advocated for the ERA. Her collection includes materials that demonstrate her activism including many papers that show her participation and leadership in Morgantown NOW. The collection also includes an interesting selection of the pins and badges she collected.  

two pins, the one on the left is a circular NOW pin and the left is a gold ERA pin

Highlighted are two pins from her collection, a green NOW circle pin, and a gold ERA pin. While the official dates for the pins are unknown, it is believed they date from the 1970s when there were several marches and rallies in support of the amendment. To obtain more information about the Lillian Waugh Papers or any other collection in the West Virginia Feminist Activist Collection, contact the WVRHC. 

Campus invited to talk exploring thoughts on conspiracy theories

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
February 21st, 2024

The WVU Humanities Center and the Religious Studies program invite the campus community to attend a presentation entitled “Feeling is Believing: A New Approach to Conspiracy Theory” at 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 4, in the Downtown Library’s Milano Room.

In this talk, Donovan Schaefer, an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, will examine what makes people believe and how science and disinformation battle to convince us. He’ll also raise the question of why the apocalyptic discourse of conspiracy theory has risen to prominence in our current political moment.

Schaefer brings a new way of assessing the relationship between thinking and feeling, suggesting that we see them as deeply interrelated rather than fundamentally separate. Shifting our frame of reference allows us to draw a clearer map of how and why conspiracy theories have managed to gain such a powerful hold in contemporary society.

Schaefer is the author of “Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power” and “Wild Experiment: Feeling Science and Secularism after Darwin.” His research and teaching examine the role of affect and power in formations of secularism, religion, science and material culture. 

For more information contact the Humanities Center at humanitiescenter@mail.wvu.edu.

Faculty invited to workshop on emotional impact of academic transformation

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
February 20th, 2024

The WVU Humanities Center and the Religious Studies program are co-sponsoring a workshop for faculty titled “Affect, Teaching, and Academic Transformation” from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday, March 4, in the Downtown Library’s Milano Room.

Donovan Schaefer, an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, will lead the workshop. Participants will explore the overlaps between affect/emotion and teaching, especially in light of Academic Transformation at WVU. They will delve into questions, such as: What impact has Academic Transformation had on our emotional lives within (and outside) the classroom? Are there ways to specifically address this affective dimension of teaching in order to better serve both faculty and students?

Schaefer is the author of “Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power” and “Wild Experiment: Feeling Science and Secularism after Darwin.” His research and teaching examine the role of affect and power in formations of secularism, religion, science and material culture.

This event is limited to 20 participants and lunch will be provided. Registration is required. Please RSVP to humanitiescenter@mail.wvu.edu and include any dietary preferences or allergies.

“Seeing the Real You:” Norman Jordan and His Poetry

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
February 12th, 2024

This post, poem, and commentary were written by Dr. Brucella Jordan, and presented at the WVRHC April 4, 2023

     Norman Harrison Jordan was a native West Virginian, born in 1938 in the small coal mining town of Ansted, WV, which is in Fayette County.  His family was some of the early African Americans who migrated from Virginia to work for the Gauley Mountain Coal Company around 1906.  His maternal grandfather, William Rogers, had worked in an iron foundry in Virginia and his skills there contributed to his becoming Supervisor of the coke ovens in Ansted; an unusual position for an African American at that time.  Norman was born in a coal company house which was just recently torn down. 

    His paternal grandfather, William Harvey Jordan, came to Ansted to work in the mines in about 1912.  He was born in Black Hawk Hollow near Charleston, WV.  So, Norman’s immediate family; his mother, father, and siblings were the 2nd generation of their family living in Ansted.  Norman was the 4th child of nine children (4 girls and 5 boys).

     His first memories of being aware of poetry were associated with two people; his grandmother and his elementary school teacher:  When he was about 7 years old his grandmother was director of a church play and he had to recite a poem in it; she often included poetry in other church plays and programs that she directed and she wrote poetry herself. 

     Also as a child, he attended the segregated school in Ansted, and when he was about 10 years old he contracted Rheumatic Fever.  After being released from the hospital he began being taught at home by a homebound teacher because he was too weak to walk up the hill to the school.  His teacher, Mrs. Childs was a lover of poetry and included some of it in her lesson plans.  They would often read poetry together and he became familiar with the poetry of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Phillis Wheatley, James Weldon Johnston, Edgar Allen Poe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and some of the other pre-1950s poets.   He would memorize poems and was encouraged to write poetry by his teacher, and he did write some poems at that early age.

In the 1940’s and 50s there was an outmigration of African Americans leaving WV as some of the mines began to have less work and people began going elsewhere to find jobs.  Norman’s family went to Cleveland, Ohio in 1951 where factory jobs were plentiful and where his paternal grandfather, who had already left West Virginia, was already living. Norman’s father and oldest brother had gone ahead to find work and a place to live before bringing the rest of the family.  However, that process was sped up by the fact that Norman was injured in an accident.  His older brother had found and was playing with the family gun and accidentally shot Norman in the face, just above his mouth; he survived of course, but his father came back to WV and immediately moved the family to Cleveland.

     Living and going to school in a large city took some getting used to.  His family moved into a house on the east side of Cleveland; East 88th Street.  It was a neighborhood that had initially been all Polish immigrants; it was called the Sowinski area, but African Americans were beginning to move into it as whites were moving out of it.; and there were some racial clashes associated with that.  Norman was also sometimes made fun of and picked on at school because of his somewhat country ways; he was still wearing overalls to school and he had a slight speech impediment, which could have been caused by the gunshot wound. 

     However, he was continuing to write poetry and it was during this time that he wrote what he has always considered to be his most popular poem, even till today; “Hometown Boy.” As a female I could relate to this poem because it was common for African Americans who had migrated north from southern states to have relatives from the south to come visit them and we always had certain impressions of them; their southern culture being different from those who had been born and raised in the north.  And I would imagine that some of that inspired the poem Hometown Boy.

     As a teenager in Cleveland Norman briefly attended High School, but despite his mother’s objections, he dropped out before graduating to join the Navy in 1955; he following in the footsteps of his two older brothers who had joined the military early.  He was stationed on a small warship In the Navy and was able to travel a lot to different counties and he was proud of that.  And he was able to read all of the books of poetry in the Navy library while also continuing to write poetry.  He also briefly got into song writing because some singers heard about his poetry and asked him to write songs for them and he wrote quite a large number of songs during that time.  But he had a bad experience with someone stealing the bulk of his songs. He became very depressed over that, which caused him to stop writing altogether for a while. 

     After being discharged from the Navy in 1959 and going back to Cleveland, his interest and focus returned to poetry.  He began visiting the Cleveland Public Library and reading the poetry of international poets; the poetry of the Chinese, Cubans, South Americans and Africans really fascinated and inspired him as well as the poetry of American Beat Generation poets like LeRoi Jones, Allen Ginsburg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Diane Di Prima and Bob Kaufman.  During this time he also decorated his car with some of his short poems and began reading some of his poetry on local radio shows.  He was writing poems that were somewhat reflective of his personal life at the time.   An example of the type of poetry he was writing would be:       

“A Winter’s Night Walk.”

                                                Fletcher and I will walk tonight

                                                No one will hear us come or go

                                                Nor will they hear the empty wine bottle

                                                When it falls in the soft, silent, snow.

       It was in the early 1960s when Norman and I met. What I remember from that period is that my family and I had moved onto east 88th street in Cleveland and I had noticed a young black man walking in the neighborhood who often carried a brief case, which set him off from the other young black men on the street. I would later learn that there were poems in that briefcase.  At that time Norman worked as a Supervisor for the Ohio Dept. of Highways, he was about 25 years old, and still lived at home with his parents and some other siblings, and he and his brothers and a lot of their friends drank a lot of alcohol, something that he had begun doing when he was in the Navy and actually he was fast becoming an alcoholic at this time.   But, he was different and I was attracted to him.  We dated for a while and fell in love, but then I broke up with him because of his drinking.

The following poem is what he wrote when we broke up:

1963

I have abandoned my past,

left behind five unanswered

love letters

and the ashes of a poem

I wanted to give to Brucella

INSTEAD, I gave her a toast

with five hundred barrels of wine

Soon afterwards he joined Alcoholics Anonymous, began making positive changes in his life, and we got married.

     It was in the early 1960s that Norman’s style of poetry began to change and what really catapulted the recognition of him and his poetry at that time was the Civil Rights Movement.  Norman was actively involved with the CRM in Cleveland in terms of social and political activism and he would soon also become one of the most prominent figures and a driving force in the Black Arts Movement of that era.  As with most social and political movements such as civil rights, there is an artistic component in which artistically inclined persons express themselves regarding the social and political activities that are taking place.  So, the Black Arts Movement (BAM) was the artistic component and expression of the Civil Rights Movement (CRM). 

     Norman’s writing began to reflect the realities of the Civil Rights Movement and he also became associated with a group of other young poets in the area who were doing the same thing.  He, along with poet and publisher Russell Atkins soon co-founded that group into the Muntu Poets.   They met regularly in writing workshops and performed throughout Cleveland’s metropolitan area.  Also at this time Cleveland’s Karamu House Theater, which is the oldest African American theater in the country presented a program entitled “An Evening with Norman Jordan” in which his poetry was read on stage by their actors.

      As his poetry became more popular, Norman would transition into becoming a major participant in the National Black Arts Movement performing with other poets like Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhubuti, Sonja Sanchez, Askia Muhammad Toure, Maya Angelou,  Quincy Troup, Eugene Redmond, and several others; they performed regularly together and he became friends with many of them. Also, he was proud to have met Langston Hughes, who included two of Norman’s poems in his anthology The Poetry of the Negro in 1965. 

     The poetry of the Black Arts Movement, like the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance movement tended to express the plight of African Americans and was more radical and often militant in nature.  The 1960s was a time when more research was being done and the truth about African American history and culture was being revealed.  People wanted change and were willing to do what was necessary to get it; whether you fit into the ideology of Dr. Martin Luther King or Malcom X or somewhere in between, as a black person you wanted to obtain equal rights.  As Norman wrote in 1966 “A Man who is afraid to die for his freedom in already dead.”  That was the feeling of the Black Arts Movement.

     Read from Destination Ashes the poem “One for All,” as an example of radical poetry of BAM.  His first book, Destination Ashes was first published in our apartment using a mimeograph machine and staples.  The 2nd publishing of it was by Creative Copy, a print shop in Cleveland, and the 3rd and final printing was by Third World Press in Chicago that Don L. Lee AKA Haki Madubuti was owner of.

     In the latter part of the BAM, Norman and I became interested in making other more personal changes in our lives.  We both had been cigarette smokers, but we quite in our twenties, we both became vegetarians and began to practice yoga and meditation, his book Above Maya is more reflective of that time period.  Above Maya was written as an experiment.  Norman’s astrological sign is Leo and he had heard that a person is most creative during the month of their birth sign, so he wrote a poem every day during the sign of Leo (the latter part of July & beginning of August).  The poem “August 8’ is probably the most popular poem from Above Maya.

     Norman is the author of five books of poetry, two of them, Destination: Ashes, and Above Maya, were written and published during the BAM era.  His poetry from that period, and later, has been anthologized in more than forty books of African American and American literature and one in Swedish, and he had performed at many colleges and universities across the country and a wide variety of other venues including New York’s Apollo Theater.

     His most popular play is entitled “In the Last Days,” and was written during that time; it has been staged in several theaters including what they call Off-Off Broadway in the Bedford Stuyvesant area of New York.  He was writer in Residence for a year at Karamu House Theater and he won a United Nations Playwrights award in which he spent a week along with other awarded playwrights in New York observing plays, writing and interacting with each other.  A film about his life and poetry entitled “Dead Ends, New Dreams,” was made by Case Western Reserve University.  And it is for these reasons that his poetry is most associated with the BAM.   However, Norman, who was very proud of his association with the BAM has said that he was writing poetry before the protest poetry of the BAM (1960s & 70s), but after that he returned to writing poetry for his own enjoyment. 

     The late 1970s brought new and different experiences for Norman and I.  After a brief period of marital separation and both of us living in different parts of the country; he in Berkeley, California and me in Tuskegee, Alabama, we joined forces again, renewed our relationship, and after a few months of living, rehearsing, and performing in Baltimore, Maryland where Norman’s play “In the Last Days” was being staged, we moved to Ansted, West Virginia.  Why West Virginia?  As I said earlier, it was the place of Norman’s birth and where he spent his pre-teenage years, he still had relatives living there on property his family owned, and it was the perfect place to live the lifestyle that we both were becoming accustomed to as raw food vegetarians practicing yoga and meditation, trying to live a healthy, simple, creative, and uncomplicated life.

     In West Virginia, Norman and I soon began to connect with other artists and activists in the area.  We found that the African American community had interest in preserving their heritage, in receiving equal rights, in establishing their identity and having their accomplishments as African Americans living in Appalachia be recognized and appreciated.  We also saw that there was much to do in terms of preserving the rich heritage that African Americans had contributed to the state of West Virginia as a leading coal mining region.  In addition, we became aware of the lingering aspects of racism that stemmed from segregation and had had such a devastating impact on many of the African American residents. 

      We, especially Norman, began to work more closely with people who were trying to bring about change.  As Norman connected with the grassroots environment of the black community he also strengthened his ability to become more involved on other levels by going back to school and obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Fine Arts from West Virginia University and a Master of Arts degree in Black Studies from Ohio State University; both accomplishments and venues were instrumental in his acquiring new connections in the arts and African American history and culture in the state of West Virginia. After obtaining his degrees he worked as a Program Coordinator for the WV Dept. of Culture and History for about 10 years and he taught African American literature at WVU and Glenville State College as an adjunct professor.

     He connected with the West Virginia Writers organization, and interacted with poets and other literary people such as Kirk Judd, Phillis Moore, Daniel Boyd, Ed Cabbell, Joseph Bundy, Elaine Blue, Ancella Bickley, Crystal Good and others.  He became a member of the Affrillachian Poets and did readings at the Cultural Center, the John Henry Festival, and many other venues.  He was very proud of having been published in the anthology, Wild Sweet Notes: Fifty Years of WV Poetry, and also receiving the Martin Luther King Living the Dream Award from the West Virginia Governor’s Award Committee in the year 2000.

      I would say that while Norman was aware of social inequities in WV that he sought to address them in different ways than he had earlier.  In 1991, he and I founded the African American Heritage Family tree Museum, and in 1994, along with the United African American Artists of WV, which he was a member of, founded the Norman Jordan African American Arts & Heritage Academy for teenagers; a week long summer arts and cultural heritage academy, which is still operating today.  During this time he also started performing a characterization of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the person who started Black History Week in the 1920s, which eventually evolved to Black History Month.  His poetry, on the other hand, tended to reflect more of the beauty of the state itself and the comfort that he felt living here.  The two books that he published after being back in WV are Where Do People in Dreams Come From & Other Poems (2004), and Sing Me Different (2012).

     Sing Me Different represents a different style of writing poetry, which Norman felt that he created. Probably the last major new project that he worked on with others, was a book entitled African American Heritage at the New River Gorge National River.  It was produced by the National Parks Service and Norman was hired as a consultant and historian to interview African American residents still living in the New River Gorge area, then transcribe and interpret his findings.  Each of the 7 chapters begins with a poem that he wrote for that section of the book.  He really enjoyed working on that project especially meeting and interviewing the African American residents.

     I want to end by reading a poem and commentary that I wrote about him after he passed away.

     I’m still getting requests from people who want to publish his poems in upcoming books.

     Some of Norman’s books are available on Amazon.

Seeing the Real You

Tonight

I’m laying here thinking and remembering

Things my mind won’t let me forget

As I often do before sleep overtakes me

Things from the past of course

That’s what old folks do

Young folks daydream about the future

Makes sense I guess

For me lots of past

Not as much future left

I’m thinking about Norman

So much to remember about him but

This one thing I don’t want to forget because

It energizes me to think about it

As if I shared in that part of him

It was a privilege to be able to daily observe the activities and thought processes of a truly creative person.  He was a poet who saw poetry in everything; in every day, night, activity; Life.  Living and observing was a poetic drama that inspired him to see it clearly, play with it, and then interpret it to the rest of us in his writing and actions.  I could see that working within him up-close and from afar.  I write poetry, but I am not a poet; Norman was a poet.  His life was poetry and I am blessed to have been able to observe it.  Why am I writing this now – tonight?  Because, although I remember it still, I notice that the memory of it is not as distinct in my mind as it was six years ago when he passed away, and I don’t want to forget how lucky I was to have witnessed creativity in motion.

Libraries seeking feedback from search users

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
February 5th, 2024

WVU Libraries would like to survey active users of their website. The feedback will help the Libraries improve the usability of their website and search features. This survey will take approximately 8 to 10 minutes to complete. Please complete in one session. To participate visit wvulib.wufoo.com/forms/search-user-experience-survey/.

Letters from ‘Yours, Bob’; an Untold Story of Heroism and the Cost of the Second World War

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
January 17th, 2024

Written by Hannah Johnson

Last professional photograph taken of Robert F. Scott, ca. 1940 by Taylor Studio. Obtained from the archives of the West Virginia and Regional History Center.1

            When considering the impact of the Second World War, it is easy to focus on statistics and figures on a global scale. Over 60 million lives – civilian and military – were lost between the summers of 1939 and 1945. The United States alone, despite entering the war in 1941, suffered an estimated 418,500 losses.2 These figures can be described in a number of ways; staggering, overwhelming, perhaps even awe inspiring when one considers humanity’s capability for self-destruction. But they are also dehumanizing. In considering war on a global scale, the story of the individual is lost; and thus, their legacy as well.

            Robert ‘Bob’ Scott was twenty-two years old when he, along with the rest of his company, were ordered to take Busham, Germany, on February 27th, 1945.3 By nightfall the next day, February 28th, Scott would be dead. Through primary sources gathered and stored in the West Virginia and Regional History Center, the details of his heroic actions that day are preserved. But most students who attend WVU, the university Scott graduated from and went on to teach at, will never know of Robert Scott. Those who do recognize the name likely remember seeing it engraved on a plaque outside Oglebay Hall alongside dozens of others as they rushed to their next class. But Scott’s story is one of value, a testament to not only those who lost their lives in the Second World War, but also the impact of a single, devoted individual in a world that’s seemingly tearing itself apart. This blog will attempt to encapsulate the story of Robert Scott, his sacrifice, and the legacy he left behind for his peers to embody.

Born in 1922, Robert F. Scott Jr. was raised in post World War I America. Originally from Pennsylvania, he eventually ended up in Kanawha county, West Virginia.4 While little is known about his upbringing, it can be surmised from his own writings and those of his parents that he came from a loving family, and one that supported his later academic endeavors. Scott attended West Virginia University, graduating with the class of 1942 and obtaining his undergraduate degree.5  An important facet of his time at WVU, and one that would later immortalize his story, was his relationship with Dr. J Clark Easton. Mrs. Scott, Robert Scott’s mother, wrote to Dr. Easton after Scott’s death stating, “[Robert] worshiped you, Dr. Easton. You were a part of our family. It was Dr. Easton this and Dr. Easton that.”6 This excerpt, among others, indicates a clear admiration on the part of Scott in regards to his professor and later colleague.

            Throughout his time at WVU, Robert Scott not only obtained his degree, but also left a lasting impact within the History Department, particularly through his relationship with Dr. Easton. As most of the letters found in the WVRHC archives were correspondence between Dr. Easton and Scott, it is valuable to understand their relationship. After receiving news of Scott’s death, Dr. Easton wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Scott regarding their son and his passing. In this letter, Dr. Easton describes Scott not only as a pupil and peer, but as a dear friend. In regards to his academic endeavors, Dr. Easton notes, “Bob took every course I offered and was far and away my best student… his enthusiasm, industry, and intellectual grasp of historical subjects I have rarely seen equalled.”7 As this excerpt eloquently relates, Scott was an engaged, driven student that stood out among his peers.

When considering the loss of such a bright, promising individual, Dr. Easton goes on to write, “I cannot let this sad occasion pass without expressing to you my profound sympathy in your loss. We here in the History Department feel that we in part share this loss with you.”8 The loss of any young person is indeed a tragedy, but Dr. Easton’s words indicate a deeper sense of collective grief felt within the History Department and thus the University itself. Scott leaving such an impact, especially as someone as young and new to academia, indicates a connection to Dr. Easton and the University that went beyond a transcript and a diploma. It is important to keep this relationship in mind as the letters Dr. Easton and Scott exchanged are examined to not only piece together his story but also to retain a sense of the person that Scott was.

Another important aspect of Scott’s time at WVU, both as a student and a teaching assistant, was WVU’s involvement in the war effort as well as Scotts own decision to enlist. In broader context, West Virginia was a state that more than contributed to the overall war effort. As Belmont Keenly describes in “Soldiers and Stereotypes: Mountaineers, Cultural Identity, and World War II”, West Virginia “[ranked] fourteenth among the forty-eight states in terms of proportion of population who served. These figures put West Virginia in the top one-third of states as a percentage of the population who joined the Army. While many of these young men were drafted, many more chose to enlist.”9 West Virginia and her citizens were invested in the war effort, and this dedication logically bled over into higher education, considering that college age men were in the prime demographic to be drafted or to enlist.

The cover of West Virginia University and the War, published by Dr. J.C. Easton in 1944. Retrieved from the West Virginia and Regional History Center’s Archives.10

An invaluable source regarding West Virginia University and its efforts during the Second World War is found in Dr. Easton’s own work, West Virginia University and the War, which was published in 1944.11 This piece explores the various ways in which WVU participated in the war effort, including images of students with captions such as “The smiling young lady investigates the setting point of TNT,” descriptions of nursing and first aid training, and information on how Air Corp Cadets trained in the classroom and at the Morgantown Airport.12 Through this source, an image of West Virginia University during this time comes into focus; a bustling campus, filled with not only dedicated students but also livened by the inner workings of service members in various stages of the pipeline that led to active duty and deployment.

Global context deepens our understanding of the changes WVU underwent during this time. By 1942 – the year Scott graduated from WVU – the war in Europe had undergone a number of significant developments. Not only had Germany invaded or allied with almost every nation on the continent – including the defeat of France and the near destruction of Poland – but the Eastern Front had also begun to play out as Germany set her sights on the USSR. The United States had also been pulled into the war despite all efforts to remain isolationist. The Empire of Japan had struck at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, unknowingly provoking the nation which would go on to be her undoing four years later.13 Thus, by 1943, the Pacific and European theaters were well underway, and the United States had become committed to not only the complete defeat of Nazi Germany but also of the Japanese Empire.

With all of this in mind, it’s understandable why a man in good health and in the position to serve, would enlist. Scott never mentioned in his letters why he traveled to Ft. Hayes on March 19, 1943, with the intention of enlisting in the Army. However, Keenly discusses a number of reasons that young men enlisted, expressing that, “While nationalistic fervor and delusions of military glory influenced a small number of West Virginians, many more found themselves joining the war effort for better economic opportunities and, in a few cases, because of the social pressure applied to young men to perform their patriotic duty.”14 This is to say, while it is plausible that Scott felt a duty to serve on moral or patriotic ground, it is also possible that he felt pressure – as so many others did – to enlist. Regardless of why, Scott’s enlistment on March 19 put him on a path that ended in Germany almost two years later.

            Upon enlistment, Scott was sent to Fort Knox. There are several letters from this time that provide insight into his activities and the conditions at Fort Knox. Writing Dr. Easton, Scott remarks, “The army with its usual efficiency and accuracy has sent the [lot] of us West Virginia Tank Destroyers to the wrong camp. We were supposed to go to Camp Hood but oddly enough they sent us to Fort Knox… It is a hell hole… I propose to be transferred.”15 Despite the mishap and Scott’s desire to be transferred, no such proposal was ever approved, and Scott would remain at Fort Knox for almost a year.

            In the same letter, Scott mentions Officer Candidate School (O.C.S.), and that his chances of becoming an officer were dwindling.16 With his transfer in limbo and his hopes of becoming an officer fading, Scott turned once again to academia. He writes, “I think I will go down to the Armored [unintelligible] Institute – which claims to offer high school and college courses – and offer my services… you have to do your best and get ahead in this army stuff or they will forget you completely.”17 In this excerpt, Scott demonstrates an understanding of his situation and the army he served in. He learned quickly that he had to make himself marketable. Unfortunately for Scott, it appears this opportunity was a dead end.

            His recounts of training at Fort Knox were honest and highlighted some of the challenges soldiers faced long before they reached the front lines. In a subsequent letter, Scott describes, “I am usually as tired as a soldier can be and that is plenty tired. We marched in 115° heat yesterday for 10 miles and lost many men on the way. I lasted by will power more than anything. It was very tough.”18 Not all was lost, however, as he goes on to write, “Had my first chance to lecture today… they asked for a ‘vol’ to give a talk on first aid… didn’t think so much of it, entirely impromptu, but I have been receiving compliments all day since. Guess my days as an assistant have not been wasted.”19 While he didn’t secure the position teaching college courses, Scott made use of his talents while serving at Fort Knox.

            In a third letter from 1943, Scott joked, “I am, fortunately, no casualty of the Battle of Fort Knox.”20 In explanation of his absence, he elaborated that he had “been living in the field for three weeks,” indicating that training was beginning to escalate at Fort Knox.21 He also mentioned that he had passed the “O.C.S braid” and hoped that his blood pressure wouldn’t keep him from passing the physical.22 This comment indicates that officer school may not have been out of the picture for Scott.

             In a letter written to Dr. Easton in February of 1944, Scott not only confirmed that he would be attending O.C.S., but that he had undergone an operation that required him to return to Morgantown for “a couple of months recuperation period.”23 While the specifics of the operation are unknown, Scott appeared to make a full recovery and proceeded with officer school as planned. One interesting inclusion in a later letter discusses a two week course that Scott participated in, centered around operating military vehicles from “jeeps to medium tanks”.24 This is only a glimpse into the experiences that made up Scott’s time in the army prior to active deployment. In his preparation for war, he was introduced to a myriad of new skills and groups of people. Yet, a constant theme in his letters is a desire to return to WVU and the History Department. 

            This longing, coupled with idleness while remaining in the states, created a yearning to not only be involved in the activities of Morgantown, but also to join the fight. As Scott mentions at the end of a letter written in the summer of 1944, “You must write me and tell me how the summer goes with you. We know our plan until September or rather October 16 but after that who can say. I presume that if the invasion goes well we may go over about then. In a way I rather hope we do. Looks as if you may be much more right about the war. My prediction was 1945. Shows how conservative I am at 22.”25 He expresses a perhaps confusing sentiment, a combination of longing for his life in Morgantown and a restlessness brought on by the escalation soon to come in the war. In over a year of army service, Scott had been stationed exclusively in the states. A desire to be ‘in the fight’ would be understandable if not expected from those who’d been stuck in basic training and officer school. What Scott didn’t know was that he’d soon be in the fight, one that would take his life less than a year later.

            Scott first arrived in Britain near the end of November, 1944.26 His departure is briefly recounted in his final letter to Dr. Easton. He writes, “you seemed surprised about my sudden departure for merry England.”27 As he’d written in the previous letter, Scott’s schedule had been uncertain beyond mid October. Serving as a lieutenant in F Company, 271st Regiment, 69th Division of the First United States Army, Scott was likely “billeted in Winchester Barracks” while stationed in Britain.28 He wasn’t there for long. On January 20th, 1945, the 271st Infantry Regiment sailed across the channel, landing on snow covered Normandy beaches the next morning.29 The Regiment entered Germany on February 10th, 1945, less than a month into their advance across the Western Front.30 Their rapid pace was due to the prior engagements and Allied victories in Western Europe which allowed the Regiment to meet the front as it entered Germany.

Within his final letter, Scott not only recounts the beauty of the German countryside, but also describes his interactions with the German people. He jokes, “German hospitality is not what it might be. One would almost believe that they do not desire our presence here. Oh well… really a pretty good fight up here.”31 With this sentiment, Scott harks on an aspect of the war that is often overlooked, but was pivotal to a soldier’s experience; that being relations with civilians. It was hoped that the German population would be relieved to see the Allies, to be ‘liberated’ from the current Nazi regime. However, as many Allied soldiers discovered, the German population was at best apathetic. Denazification would be a challenge faced by the Allied powers for years after the war ended.32

Campaign Route of the 69th Infantry Division across the Western Front. This map highlights their journey through France and Belgium before entering Germany in February of 1945. Obtained from US Army Divisions.33

            These being some of Scott’s last written words regarding the war, the rest of his movements up until his death on February 28th, 1945, must be surmised from the records of the 271st Regiment and eyewitness accounts. The Regiment moved through Germany towards what would be their first attack on February 27th, 1945, with the objective of securing a supply route via Hellenthal-Hollerath road.34 Higgins recounts that;

Company F, attacking Buschem and Honningen, was able to take half of Buschem before being pinned down by fire from nearby Honningen, and was ordered to hold its present position for the night… [G Company was then ordered to] close the gap between themselves and F Company. The Third Battalion was alerted that night, but not committed until next day. Next morning, E Company was committed to assist F Company, and the two companies cleared Buschem and went on to take Honningen. Two counterattacks were repulsed in the area.35

            This excerpt encompasses not only the first attack that the 271st Regiment engaged in, but also the action in which Scott was killed. With a broad overview of the objective and the stakes, a better picture of the circumstances Scott and his men found themselves in comes together. In their first major engagement of the war, F Company was separated from the rest of the 271st Regiment and pinned down. While G Company attempted in vain to reach them, F Company was on their own. It was not until the next morning that E Company could assist them. Thus, on the morning of February 28th, 1945, Scott and his men felt a moment of relief. E Company had come to aid them in taking their objective despite the heavy resistance. But the price of that victory would be great, as it was for so many actions during the Second World War.

James Kidd, considered one of if not the last person to see Scott alive, sheds light on the specifics of their actions that day. In a letter to Dr. Easton he writes;

Lt. Robert. F Scott and I were commanding the leading platoons of an attacking company in a rapid advance… The men were having a difficult time climbing over the rough ground with a heavy load of ammunition. Enemy machine guns and ‘burp’ guns from our flanks made the going even tougher… I saw Bob about 75 yards to my right at the front of his platoon encouraging his men on… The last time I saw him alive he was turned half around, moving forward at the same time… shouted to his men something like, ‘Come on, can’t you keep up with me, an old man like me?’… The next day… I saw his body, lying at a cross road. It was a typical example of modern war, too terrible to describe for civilized beings.36

            Kidd’s description of heavy resistance and machine gun fire line up with the report provided by Higgins. His recount also evokes a sense of detached loss so commonly found in the testimony of veterans. The death of Scott, while devastating, was considered ‘typical’. Kidd simply did not have the time or emotional bandwidth to fully process Scott’s passing at the time or perhaps even afterwards.

            A further description of Scott’s fate, one that sheds light on his character, is shared in a letter by Mrs. Scott to Dr. Easton. According to ‘a Major General’;

            The fighting from house to house was fierce. One of his men was seriously wounded and was lying in a sunken place in the road which was covered by machine gun fire and in danger of further injury. Without regard for his own safety Lt. Scott passed through the fire to the wounded man and when attempting to return with him was killed by machine gun fire.37

            From this account, the circumstances of Scott’s death are even further understood. Not only had he been leading his men onto the road, but he had stopped and attempted to aid one of his comrades despite the immense peril of that action. His bravery and selflessness, even in his final moments, are something that no plaque or medal could ever adequately express. Genuine sacrifice on such a level defines the cost of the Second World War.

It could be argued that considering an individual’s experience in a global conflict does not give an accurate representation of the conflict’s true impact. That is to say, that one person’s story could not possibly define a war that claimed 60 million lives. And while Robert Scott’s story does not address every minute detail of the war or the geopolitics behind it, Scott’s story does encapsulate the tragedy of the Second World War. As James Kidd wrote, “[Scott’s] Silver Star commendation said something about ‘above and beyond the call of duty.’ Such is war.”38 Such a statement supports the idea that Scott’s story, while heroic, was not uncommon. Thus, one man’s story may not define a war, but it can certainly aid in grasping the impact of the conflict on not just an individual but a family, community, nation, or perhaps the world.

            When considering legacy, it is often awards and accolades that first come to mind. And while Robert Scott was awarded a Bronze Star and the Silver Star, it feels hollow to remember a person purely based on the medals on their record.39 Scott was more than just a couple pieces of commemorative metal. He was a promising academic, a loving son, and a brave soldier even in the face of death. As Dr. Easton fondly writes;

Bob was one of my best students and an unusually fine fellow, as you know, and I was much upset by his death. It is one of the great tragedies of war that so many young men of promise should have to make the supreme sacrifice at the beginning of careers that would have meant so much to them and to the world.40

            Dr. Easton’s emphasis on unknown potential is an important one. What might Scott or the millions of others killed in the Second World War have gone on to do? It’s a difficult question, and one that will never have an answer. Once again, the tragedy of war can be encapsulated in the loss of a single, promising individual, because the unknown potential of all of the lives lost in the Second World War would be beyond comprehension. Robert Scott’s story then, is not one defined simply by loss, but by his unknown potential. And while it is easy to distance oneself from history, whether by the passage of time or changes in society itself, there are themes that are pervasive throughout all time. Especially in an era of uncertainty and division, it is important that stories like Scott’s continue to be told. To remind us that despite differences in lifestyle, political opinions, or simply distant zip codes, everyone has the potential to do something for the betterment of society… and that that potential can be stripped away in the blink of an eye. All of this to say, if you take anything from Robert Scott’s story, it should be that you don’t always know how long you have or where life will take you. It should be one’s goal, then, to explore that potential as fully and freely as one can. Because not everyone gets that chance, and we owe it to those who’ve laid down their lives for our freedom and safety to pursue that potential for the betterment of our university, our nation, and our society.

Notes

1.  “Robert F. Scott, Class of 1942”. West Virginia History OnView. Accessed November 5, 2023. https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/038857.

2.“Research Starters: Worldwide Deaths in World War II,” The National WWII Museum, accessed October 17, 2023, https://www.nationalww2museum.org/students-teachers/student-resources/research-starters/

Research-starters-worldwide-deaths-world-war.

3. John Higgins, “Trespass Against Them”: History of the 271st Infantry Regiment (Naumburg, Germany, 1945).

4. National Archives, World War II Army Enlistment Records.

5. “Robert F. Scott, Class of 1942”. West Virginia History OnView. Accessed November 5, 2023. https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/038857.

6. Letter from Mrs. Scott to Dr. J.C. Easton, 1945.

7.  Letter From Dr. J.C. Easton to Mr. and Mrs. Scott, March 24, 1945.

8.  Letter From Dr. J.C. Easton to Mr. and Mrs. Scott, March 24, 1945.

9. Belmont C. Keenly, “Soldiers and Stereotypes: Mountaineers, Cultural Identity, and World War II,” (West Virginia University, 2009) p.44.

10. “Cover of, West Virginia University and the War’ by J.C. Easton, Associate Professor of History, West Virginia University”. West Virginia History OnView. Accessed November 5, 2023. https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/038857.

11. J.C. Easton, West Virginia University and The War.

12. J.C. Easton, West Virginia University and The War.

13. Gerhard Weinberg, A World At Arms: A Global History of World War II.

14. Belmont C. Keenly, “Soldiers and Stereotypes: Mountaineers, Cultural Identity, and World War II,” (West Virginia University, 2009) p.20.

15. First letter from Robert Scott to Dr. Clark Easton regarding Fort Knox, 1943, p.1-2.

16. First letter from Robert Scott to Dr. Clark Easton regarding Fort Knox, 1943, p.2.

17. First letter from Robert Scott to Dr. Clark Easton regarding Fort Knox, 1943, p.2-3.

18. Second letter from Robert Scott to Dr. Clark Easton regarding Fort Knox, 1943, p.1.

19. Second letter from Robert Scott to Dr. Clark Easton regarding Fort Knox, 1943, p.2

20. Third letter from Robert Scott to Dr. Clark Easton regarding Fort Knox, 1943, p.1.

21. Third letter from Robert Scott to Dr. Clark Easton regarding Fort Knox, 1943, p.1.

22. Third letter from Robert Scott to Dr. Clark Easton regarding Fort Knox, 1943, p.4.

23. Letter from Robert Scott to Dr. J.C. Easton, February, 1944, p.1.

24. Vehicle training letter from Robert Scott to Dr. J.C. Easton, 1944, p.1.

25.  Invasion letter from Robert Scott to Dr. J.C. Easton, Summer, 1944, p.2.

26. Higgins, “Trespass Against Them.”

27. Final letter from Robert Scott to Dr. J.C. Easton, February, 1945, p.1.

28. “Robert F. Scott, Class of 1942,” West Virginia History OnView; John Higgins, “Trespass Against Them”.

29. Higgins, “Trespass Against Them.”; John Grehan, Liberating Europe: D-Day to Victory in Europe, 1944–1945 (Barnsley, South Yorkshire: 2014) p.182.

30. Higgins, “Trespass Against Them.”

31. Final letter from Robert Scott to Dr. J.C. Easton, February, 1945, p.1.

32. Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 (New York: The Penguin Press, 2005), p.57.

33. “69th Infantry Division – The Fighting 69th”. US Army Divisions. Accessed December 12, 2023. https://www.armydivs.com/69th-infantry-division.

34. Higgins, “Trespass Against Them.”

35. Higgins, “Trespass Against Them.”

36. Letter from James Kidd to Dr. J.C. Easton, May 8, 1945, p.1.

37. Letter from Mrs. Scott to Dr. J.C. Easton, April 30, 1945, p.1.

38. Letter from James R. Kidd to Dr. J.C. Easton, May 8, 1945, p.1.

39. Letter from James W. May to Mr. and Mrs. Scott, 1945, p.1.

40. Letter from Dr. J.C. Easton to James Kidd, May 23, 1945, p.1.

Bibliography

Easton, J.C., West Virginia University and The War. Morgantown: West Virginia University, 1944.

Final letter from Robert Scott to Dr. J.C. Easton, February, 1945, A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Final Report: 1951 Army ROTC Armored Summer Camp. Fort Belvoir; United States Army Publishing Directorate, 1951.

First letter from Robert Scott to Dr. Clark Easton regarding Fort Knox, 1943, A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Higgins, John. “Trespass Against Them”: History of the 271st Infantry Regiment. Naumburg, Germany;1945.

Invasion letter from Robert Scott to Dr. J.C. Easton, summer, 1944, A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

John Grehan, and Martin Mace. 2014. Liberating Europe: D-Day to Victory in Europe, 1944–1945. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military. https://research.ebsco.com/linkprocessor/plink?id=b388bcba-db0b-3ff2-aba0-7c1e15f812d5.

Judt, Tony. Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945. New York: The Penguin Press, 2005.

Keenly, C. Belmont. “Soldiers and Stereotypes: Mountaineers, Cultural Identity, and World War

II.” PhD diss., West Virginia University, 2009.

Letter from Dr. J.C. Easton to James Kidd, May 23, 1945, A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Letter from Dr. J.C. Easton to Mrs. Scott, May 7, 1945, A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Letter from Dr. Easton to Mr. and Mrs. Scott, March 24, 1945, A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Letter from James W. May to Mr. and Mrs. Scott, 1945, A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Letter from James R. Kidd to Dr. J.C. Easton, May 8,1945, A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Letter from James R. Kidd to Dr. Clark Easton, May 8, 1945, A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Letter from Mrs. Scott to Dr. J.C. Easton, 1945, A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV, War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Letter from Robert Scott to Dr. J.C. Easton, February, 1944,  A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

National Archives. World War II Army Enlistment Records. Research Group 64. National Archives: Access to Archival Databases (AAD), 2002. Digital: https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=2&cat=WR26&tf=F&sc=24994,24995,24996,24998,24997,24993,24981,24983&bc=,sl,fd&txt_24995=Robert+Scott&op_24995=0&nfo_24995=V,24,1900&cl_24996=54&op_24996=null&nfo_24996=V,2,1900&cl_24998=039&op_24998=null&nfo_24998=V,3,1900&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=1141309&rlst=1141309,6038806.

“Research Starters: Worldwide Deaths in World War II,” The National WWII Museum. Accessed October 17, 2023. https://www.nationalww2museum.org/students-teachers/student-resources/research-starters/research-starters-worldwide-deaths-world-war.

“Robert F. Scott, Class of 1942, West Virginia University, from St. Albas, W. Va.” West Virginia History OnView. Accessed November 5, 2023. https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/038857.

Second letter from Robert Scott to Dr. Clark Easton regarding Fort Knox, 1943, A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Third letter from Robert Scott to Dr. Clark Easton regarding Fort Knox, 1943, A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Vehicle training letter from Robert Scott to Dr. J.C. Easton, 1944, A&M 2324, Easton WWII Material, WV War History Commission Recs, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Weinberg, Gerhard. A World At Arms: A Global History of World War II. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 2005.

“69th Infantry Division – The Fighting 69th”. US Army Divisions. Accessed December 12, 2023. https://www.armydivs.com/69th-infantry-division.

Zines and Queer Appalachian Dreams

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
January 15th, 2024

Written by Dee Elliott

For this post, the WVRHC is looking at some of our zine and LGBTQ+ holdings that have been processed to be included within the Center.  Within historical collections, the queer community is often underrepresented in their holdings, and even more so when it comes to transgender individuals being represented.  In the state of West Virginia, there are more and more transgender people that are constantly looking for representation in both media and history.  Elliott Stewart of Huntington, WV, provides this representation for not only teens, but anyone who lives or has grown up queer in Appalachia, an area notoriously difficult to identify as LGBTQ+ in.  Stewart runs Porch Beers Press, a zine-focused publication group that focuses on various topics like fandom, food culture, and growing up queer in Appalachia.  The WVRHC recently picked up a selection of publications from Porch Beers Press, providing a fascinating insight into what it’s like to grow up queer in Appalachia.  Stewart even provides an “unapologetically queer” transmasculine perspective within the zines, which is an underrepresented group of people within the LGBTQ+ community itself. 

The Mascot of Porch Beers Press 

Zines in general have been a popular way for people to create and distribute their thoughts on various topics or display their art in a non-traditional printed form.  The very first Zine dates to May of 1930, when fans discussed science and science fiction in a publication known as The Comet, created by the Science Correspondence Club.  Originally called “fanzines,” a combination of the words “fan magazine,” zines were used for this purpose, to talk about popular culture and early fandom.  In fact, some of this included some of these publications included the earliest fanfiction in popular culture, which was primarily about Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) through original adventures of the crew of the USS Enterprise created by fans of the show.  Later, as it became easier for people to print and distribute their own zines through various means, more publications concerning activism for feminism and LGBTQ+ rights and lives came about, the latter of which Elliott Stewart now often writes about today. 

Stewart’s collection isn’t the only set of zines within the holdings of the WVRHC.  In fact, there are zines being processed to be included in the collections, as well as existing collections of zines that had been donated to the library before Stewart’s collection.  Donated to the WVRHC by Bryan Richards in 2017, the Collection of West Virginia Zines (A&M 4283) reflects a set of West Virginia-based zines detailing art, poetry, music, and more.  Authors and artists like Liz Pavlovic, whose art can be seen on and across several businesses and public works across not just Morgantown, but the whole state of West Virginia and beyond, are featured within this collection.  In fact, the West Virginia Zine Collection has several digitized inclusions for perusal at the West Virginia and Regional History Center.  Also included within the collection is an article on the Morgantown Zine Festival from October of 2017.  There is also a collection of zines/underground press publications from Morgantown from 1991 to 1993, providing a fascinating look into the opinions of local authors on alternative music, movies, poetry, and more in the early 1990s. 

Various Zines from Porch Beers Press 

Elliott Stewart continues to make zines today, recently covering topics in Porch Beers Issue 6 like his personal history with mental illness, deep diving into maladaptive daydreams, domestic violence, and schizophrenia.  Zines like Stewarts allow a more personal, in-depth look into the feelings and thoughts of the author without having a publisher edit things too much.  You can find out more about Porch Beers Press and the work of Elliott Stewart at https://bqueenbandit.wixsite.com/porchbeers.  The West Virginia and Regional History Center continues to accept and process zine collections and hopes to expand their holdings for patron perusal and enjoyment! 

Lorilla Bullard: Doctor to Insane Women

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
January 8th, 2024

Written by Linda Blake

If you are a native West Virginian, as I am, you will have heard the jokes about being “sent to Weston” or “coming from Weston.” Everyone knew the Weston reference was to the Weston State Hospital. Like many people living in Weston, my aunt worked at the hospital. I have visited the hospital as a tourist many times since it became the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, but my first visit was in the 1970s when I was an education major at Glenville State College. We made a class visit to the Weston State Hospital and to a hospital in St. Mary’s, West Virginia, to see special needs populations. The memories of those visits have stayed with me some fifty years later.  

Black women patients in the hospital and their caregivers, circa 1896-1900.
White women patients in the hospital and their caregivers, circa 1896-1900.

A new acquisition to the West Virginia and Regional History Center, “Lorilla Frances Bullard Tower, Doctor, Papers,” sheds light on the history of the Weston State Hospital, or as it was known when Dr. Lorilla Bullard was an Assistant Physician there, the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane. Dr. Bullard provided medical services to mentally ill women during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her papers consist largely of photographs of the hospital, staff, and patients; correspondence regarding the employment of Dr. Bullard at the hospital; and papers on the treatment of the mentally ill at the turn of the 20th century. This blog post will highlight just a few of the most interesting papers. 

The West Virginia Hospital for the Insane, circa 1900

The Weston State Hospital 

First, a bit of history of this state institution created to treat mentally ill patients who over the years were officially called “insane” and “lunatic,” the latter by the 1858 Virginia Legislature when it passed a law authorizing the start of building “The Lunatic Asylum West of the Alleghany Mountains.” Upon its completion and after West Virginia became a state in 1863, the hospital was named the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane which is the name of the hospital discussed in Dr. Bullard’s Paper, 1894-1904. Patients who originally resided in West Virginia but who were living in Virginia’s Western Hospital in Staunton were transferred to the new hospital in Weston. In 1913 the name was changed to the Weston State Hospital which remained its name until its closing in 1994. The current hospital called The Trans-Alleghany Lunatic Asylum is a tourist attraction with some parts open to the public. The building and grounds are monumental and of historical and architectural significance and the building and museum are well worth a visit.

Professional staff of the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane, circa 1894-1900. Lorilla Bullard, front row left. W.E. Stathers, possibly the bearded man in front row. Others pictured: C.S. Topping, Clerk; T.B. Miskimom, Druggist; Miss Hall, Sup.; William Mick, Sup.; J.W. Curtis, Ush.; R.H. Fetty, M.D.; Mamie McIntyre, Mat.; Mark Perry M.D.

Dr. Lorilla Bullard 

Lorilla Frances Bullard was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, on March 15, 1870. She and her sister Rachel both attended the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. After graduating, she moved in Oakland, Maryland where she settled for the rest of her life when she left the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane in Weston.  

She worked in Weston as one of two Assistant Physicians, 1896-1901. After serving a five-year term, Bullard requested another term. Her papers indicate that her bid for reappointment in 1901 was contentious with indications that it was because she was a woman. Letters of support for her reappointment came from West Virginia movers and shakers including the West Virginia State Medical Society, government administrators, state legislators, and other leaders of the Republican Party. Many of the letters express not just Dr. Bullard’s qualifications, but the efficacy of women being treated by women. A.B. White, President and Editor of The State Journal wrote: 

“A physician of her own sex is no longer denied in many progressive states to the unfortunates whose mental conditions require treatment at the asylum and no one better than a skillful woman could treat a woman thus afflicted. The very nature and condition of patients in many cases implies the need for women attendants of skillful hands and through medical training. Dr. Bullard meets these requirements admirably and I commend her to your most favorable consideration.”

J.K. Hall wrote of Dr. Bullard “…she stands high in her profession, has met with marked success at your institution, and is in every way deserving of re-appointment.”  

At about this time, 1902, Dr. Bullard married Edward Zealous Tower in Lewis County. The couple moved back to Maryland after she was not being reappointed at the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane. In Maryland. she was very active in local causes, including child welfare and the voting rights of women. She continued to be a licensed physician, but did not practice extensively, but she did work with the Red Cross and other civic groups until her death in 1963. According to one source, she was the only female doctor listed in Garret County in 1922. Dr. Tower was recognized in 2020 as a Maryland (Garret County) suffragist for “her work to empower women for social reform and suffrage.”  

Dr. Lorilla Frances Bullard Tower later in life.

Superintendent’s Scandal 

Dr. Bullard’s papers overall are fascinating and a great addition to the knowledge we have regarding the history of the State Hospital and the treatment of mental illness, specifically of women. Some items in the collection which may be of special interest to researchers include a letter from a lawyer detailing the legalities of women doctors for the insane, photographs of the inner workings of the huge building, notes on the treatment of four women, and photographs of Black patients and workers.  

I found one item particularly intriguing: the January 23, 1900 edition of the Weston Independent newspaper with an article regarding the Hospital’s Board hearing on the termination of Dr. W.E. Stathers as the Superintendent at the Hospital. He was charged with inappropriate relationships with women, both patients and staff. An August 19, 1899 newspaper article now online provides background details of accusations against Dr. Stathers as well as testimony discrediting witnesses. Dr. Bullard was mentioned as caring for Harriet Green, one of Stathers’ accusers, and testified regarding Harriet Green’s attempted suicide and to rumors about Green and Stathers.  After the hearing, the Board did not dismiss Stathers, but according to the 1900 newspaper article included in the collection, various newspapers and the general public lobbied for Stathers’ dismissal.  He finally did resign in 1901, which to some was an admission of guilt, but the Board was slow to find a replacement.  An editorial in The Argus called Stathers “the old reprobate.” Another newspaper editorial in the Farmers Advocate said the Board’s reluctance to dismiss Stathers and its subsequent inability for months to hire a replacement was “a disgrace intolerable.” 

So, Dr. W.E. Stathers kept his job after abusing his position of power over women in his employ and women disabled by mental illness. Conversely, Dr. Lorilla Bullard, who cared for the health needs of those same mentally ill women, was not allowed to keep her job.  Could it have been because she was a woman practicing in a male-dominated profession? 

To see the photographs, correspondence, and other papers of Dr. Lorilla Bullard, make an appointment to visit the West Virginia and Regional History Center.  

Planned steam outage at Downtown Library

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
December 14th, 2023

WVU Facilities has planned a steam outage for the Downtown Library and other downtown buildings for Monday and Tuesday, December 18 and 19. Consequently, the Downtown Library will be closed to the public for part of that time. The Library will be open Monday, December 18, from 8 a.m. to noon. It will be closed Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday, December 19. The Library will resume normal intersession hours – 8 a.m.-5 p.m. – on Wednesday, December 20. Please check the Libraries’ website for updated operating hours.

I, Intern

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
December 4th, 2023

Written by Colleen Benison, Rare Book Room Intern

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.

Isaac Asimov sitting at a table at The Mysterious Bookshop. He is wearing thick-framed glasses, has white sidburns, and is smiling up at someone while holding a pen.
Isaac Asimov autographing books at The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, 1984 Mario Suriani/Associated Press

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.

A cardboard box of rare books, the two facing upward toward the camera are "Nightfall," by Isaac Asimov and "Time Enough for Love," by Robert A. Heinlein.
Box #5 of Larry Miller’s collection gifted to the Rare Book Room

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.

Resources:

Mountaineers’ Road to Statehood: Reflections on “Born of Rebellion” with Graduate Assistants Devon and Erica

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
November 20th, 2023

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.

The above section was written by Erica Uzak.

Celebrating Halloween in 1919

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
October 31st, 2023

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.

Happy Halloween!

Resources

John Russo: 50+ Years of Fear

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
October 30th, 2023

Written by Dee Elliott

Happy Halloween! 

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.

A picture of John Russo, left, and George Romero, right. Romero has an arm around Russo's shoulder. Both are older men with glasses.
John Russo and 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.

Marquee and display of the front of the Fulton Theater reading "World Premiere Tonight Night of the Living Dead." A sing below reads "Pittsburgh's Own First Feature Film."
Fulton Theater on Opening Night

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.

Poster advertising Night of the Living Dead (1968).
Poster for Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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. 

Extras from Night of the Living Dead in zombie attire walk outside.
The Zombies Descend!

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.

Poster advertising Return of the Living Dead (1984).
Poster for Return of the Living Dead (1984)

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. 

John Russo in red zombie makeup.
John Russo as Uncle John in My Uncle John is a Zombie! (2017)

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!

Exploring Local History: A Glimpse of Richard Duez’s Collections

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
October 16th, 2023

Written by Elijah Riggleman

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!

WVRHC to host “Women Making History” exhibit opening

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 3rd, 2023
Women making history logo

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.

This is a hybrid event. Those unable to attend in person can register for the zoom at wvu.libcal.com/event/10941362.

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New Acquisitions Reveal Pearl S. Buck’s Thoughts on Sex and Gender

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
September 11th, 2023

written by Bethany Winters

Pearl Buck, seated, with her three adopted daughters standing next to her over a chess board.
Pearl Buck with Her Adopted Daughters, photograph, West Virginia History OnView, 1964, https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/054463

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.

Peal Buck playing with her young daughter, Carol Grace, outside.
Pearl Buck with daughter, Carol Grace, photograph, West Virginia History OnView, https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/051644

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.

Libraries to open library transformation exhibit September 12

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
August 22nd, 2023

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.”

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Behind the Scenes: Rare Books

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
May 15th, 2023

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.

a deep green book with gold inlays illustrating a cat chasing a bird outside.
Balance of Nature and Modern Conditions of Cultivation. A Practical Manual of Animal Foes and Friends for the Country Gentleman, the Farmer, the Forester, the Gardener, and the Sportsman by George Abbey. London: George Routledge & Sons, Limited, 1909

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.

a book open on a table to pages describing slops and graphs. the text is in french.
French Mathematics text: Nomographie par M. Féchet & H. Roullet. Paris: Libraire Armand Colin, 1928.

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.

a royal blue book with gold inlaid designs illustrating people in small wooden boats. text above and below reads: The Country of the Dwarves by Paul du Chaillu
The Country of the Dwarfs by Paul Du Chaillu. NY: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1872. 
A sage green book with white, brown, and gold designs depicting two ships on the ocean. Gulls fly above them. Text in a frame reads: The Log of a Privateersman. Above, in simple green letters: by Harry Collingwood.
The Log of a Privateersman by Harry Collinwood.  NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1896.

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.

The Rumors of His Death were Exaggerated: The Darlington-Hutton Shooting Revisited

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
May 1st, 2023

Written by Luke Masa, Doctoral candidate, History & WV Newspaper Project Grant Assistant

A newspaper clipping with the following area highlighted: Woodford Hutton, son of Col. Elhu Hutton, who was dangerously wounded by a man named C.P. Darlington some time ago, is still in a Baltimore hospital.

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.

A newspaper clipping reading: Woodford Hutton Dies After Long Sickness. Nepher of Dr. A.H. Woodford of This City. Laid to Rest Monday. Woodford Hutton, aged 50, a nephew of Dr. A.H. Woodford and Mrs. John A. Robinson of this city dies at his home at Huttonsville Saturday, following an illness of several years duration. He was buried Monday afternoon at Huttonsville at the old brick church cemetery.

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.

Sunlight and Shadows

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
April 17th, 2023

Written by Devon Lewars

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.