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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!

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