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Snapshots of WVU in the 1960s, Part 2, Wise Library

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
April 17th, 2018

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

This blog will continue to survey photographs from an archival photograph collection received by the History Center from University Relations. It contains photos showing people, activities, and events at West Virginia University from the 1960s to more recent times.  This installment of the series will focus on photos that document Wise Library (which is now encompassed within the Downtown Campus Library).  Although some of these photographs have probably been seen before, the acquisition of this collection with all of its original negatives will now privilege researchers and viewers with source material of the highest quality.
Read the rest of this entry »

Doc the Fire Dog

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
April 9th, 2018

Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC.

One of the Libraries’ Instagram posts from last month inspired me to research a dog that showed up in a couple of Morgantown fire department photos in our collections.

Instagram post showing modern image of old firehouse in Morgantown meshed with historic photo of firetruck in front of same building, with explanatory text.

My research took me into the archives at the WVRHC as well as the wonderful historical material kept by the Morgantown Fire Department.  They have captain’s logs, scrapbooks, clippings, photos, and other material that tells the story of the MFD; if any of our readers have research interests about the MFD, you can get in touch with our fire chief, Mark Caravasos. He showed me their collection and gave me more information about Doc the fire dog to fill in the gaps in my research.  Read the rest of this entry »

Recovering the Classics, Appalachian Style

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
April 9th, 2018

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian

Last fall, Sally Deskins, Exhibits and Program Coordinator for the Downtown Campus Library, approached me, Stewart Plein, Rare Books curator, and Joe Galbreath, Associate Professor for Graphic Design at the WVU School of Art & Design, with a great idea – to reimagine the design of classic books and their cover art in a new way.  Sally was inspired by the Recovering the Classics website, a crowdsourced program that invites “illustrators, typographers, and designers of all stripes to create new covers for 100 of the greatest works in the public domain.”

But Sally had a twist to this great idea – to recover classic Appalachian titles instead of literary classics.  Professor Galbreath and I were both excited about the project and began to make plans.  Professor Galbreath created an assignment for his Advanced Typography class, Art 328, to visit the WVU Rare Book Room and the West Virginia and Regional History Center’s Reading Room collection to gather inspiration for their reimagined book cover designs.   Read the rest of this entry »

US Congress exhibit opens April 2

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
March 28th, 2018

Photograph of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressing a joint meeting of Congress, December 26, 1941, from the Senator Harley Martin Kilgore papers, WVRHC

The United States Congress is the branch of the federal government closest to the people, where representatives and their constituents most directly engage over the issues of the day. Yet many Americans view Congress with a mix of frustration, confusion, and disapproval.

To promote a better understanding of Congress, the West Virginia and Regional History Center at West Virginia University Libraries will open a new exhibit, “The People’s Branch: Exploring the U.S. Congress with Archives,” on April 2, in the Downtown Campus Library’s Rockefeller Gallery. It will remain on display through December 2018.

“The People’s Branch” uses archival materials to explore the basic functions of Congress and the importance of the institution in American democracy. It highlights the representative responsibilities of the body and the interactions between politicians and constituents. It encourages visitors to consider how Congress has evolved over time and how it continues to shape politics and public policy.

“With the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, the exhibit offers a chance to look at the legislative branch broadly and to reflect on how the institution has remained consistent, and changed, over time” said Danielle Emerling, WVRHC assistant curator and congressional and political papers archivist.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Harriet B. Jones, West Virginia Physician, Suffragist, and Activist

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
March 26th, 2018

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

Harriet B. Jones was born in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Terra Alta, Preston County, West Virginia from the age of seven.  She attended Wheeling Female College in Wheeling, West Virginia, with a focus on music and art, graduating in 1875. Soon thereafter she concluded four years of Chautauqua courses.  Despite completing the traditional training for middle class women of her day, Jones was discontent.  She recognized the need for female physicians and pursued a medical degree at the Women’s Medical College of Baltimore.  She graduated in 1884 and later finished post-graduate studies to specialize in gynecology and abdominal surgery.

Portrait of Harriet B. Jones, ca. 1897

Harriet B. Jones ca. 1897. Image from American women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies with over 1,400 Portraits: a Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Lives and Achievements of American Women during the Nineteenth Century, page 425.  Read the rest of this entry »

WVRHC Debuts New Archives Research Website

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
March 13th, 2018

The West Virginia & Regional History Center at West Virginia University Libraries has launched a powerful new tool to assist researchers anywhere in the world who have an interest in exploring the history of the Mountain State and its region.

The Center’s new Guide to Archives and Manuscripts provides enhanced descriptions for more than 4,300 archival collections, and that number grows every week. The new site is available at https://archives.lib.wvu.edu/.

The website is built with ArchivesSpace, an open source, web-based archives information management system supported by a community of over 300 member institutions and the LYRASIS network of museums, archives and libraries. WVU Libraries has been a member of the ArchivesSpace community since 2015.

For more information, check out the article in WVUToday: https://wvutoday.wvu.edu/stories/2018/03/12/west-virginia-regional-history-center-debuts-new-archives-research-website

If you have any questions about using the new site, please contact us!

“CHEW MAIL POUCH TOBACCO, TREAT YOURSELF TO THE BEST”

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
March 12th, 2018

Blog Post by Jessica Eichlin, Photographs Manager and Preservationist

Driving on the back roads of West Virginia is one of my favorite parts of traveling to visit family in Virginia.  The natural scenery is gorgeous, I get to see incredible farm houses, and, as a bonus this last trip, I saw a Mail Pouch Tobacco sign on a barn.  I had heard of these rustic billboards before, but did not know much about the history behind them.  Read the rest of this entry »

University Archives Update, Part 2: Beyond University Records

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
March 7th, 2018

Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC.

In January, I wrote about WVU’s new records retention efforts and how that helps the University Archives collect WVU’s history.  University history goes beyond departmental and administrative records, though, so the University Archives collects more than just records created by the University. If you are interested in what the University Archives wants to collect, take a look at our Collection Policy.  It describes additional types of records and materials that we are collecting, including the following categories:  Read the rest of this entry »

The Niagara Movement in West Virginia

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
February 28th, 2018

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

In August 1906, a group of African Americans signed a register to designate their entry into John Brown’s Fort in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  This burgeoning group, dubbed the Niagara Movement, made a special pilgrimage to the Fort during their first meeting on American soil held on the campus of Storer College. The Fort, the former U.S. Army Arsenal Engine House, was the site of Brown’s failed raid to foment a slave rebellion 1859, a precursor to the Civil War.  It had become a shrine for African Americans and many others who saw it as a symbol of freedom.  Read the rest of this entry »

Snapshots of WVU in the 1960s, Part 1, The Computer Center

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
February 19th, 2018

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

Not long ago the History Center received a collection of archival photographs from University Relations that contains images documenting people, activities, and events at West Virginia University from the 1960s to more recent times.  This blog will focus on photos that show the beginning of computing services at WVU.  Read the rest of this entry »

WVRHC launches George Bird Evans digital collection

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
February 15th, 2018

George Bird Evans poses with Blue and Dawn, ca. 1940. 

West Virginia University Libraries’ West Virginia and Regional History Center has launched a digital collection that chronicles more than six decades of work by acclaimed outdoorsman, author and illustrator George Bird Evans.

The George Bird Evans Collection contains sixty-five years of detailed handwritten hunting journals in which Evans meticulously recorded the results of hunting excursions, primarily in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains.

“George Bird Evans was one of the world’s foremost authorities on upland bird shooting and fine bird dogs,” WVRHC Director John Cuthbert said. “His eloquence and philosophical bent earned him an avid following among hunting literature enthusiasts across the nation and beyond.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read All About It! More Historic Newspapers Available on Chronicling America

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
February 12th, 2018

Masthead of American Union Newspaper

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian

Woman reading newspaper

The West Virginia and Regional History Center is pleased to announce that an additional eighteen historic West Virginia newspapers have recently been uploaded to the Library of Congress Chronicling America database.  These newspapers have been digitized as part of the National Digital Newspaper Project (NDNP) grant awarded to WVU Libraries and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in partnership with the Library of Congress. These newspapers have been digitized under the receipt of WVU’s third NDNP grant award.  All of these historic West Virginia newspapers now on Chronicling America are available free to read and download in the comfort of your own home.  Read the rest of this entry »

Selected Environmental History Archives and Manuscripts Collections at the WVRHC

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
February 5th, 2018

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

West Virginia is known for mountain vistas, beautiful rivers and forests, and rural scenery.  The natural beauty of the state is one of its greatest assets.  This blog post compiles a number of collections at the West Virginia & Regional History Center that document efforts to preserve the natural environment in West Virginia.  Click on the link to see the finding aid for each collection.  This list is not comprehensive – there are many more relevant sources in the Center’s holdings.  Search the Guide to Archives and Manuscripts for additional collections and review the WVRHC website to find books, photographs, maps, and printed ephemera among other resources.  Read the rest of this entry »

University Archives Update, Part 1: University Records

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
January 22nd, 2018

Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC.

In honor of WVU’s new and exciting records retention schedule, here is a little history about the University Archives and information about what we are collecting.

People working at desks on the 10th Floor of Wise Library, West Virginia University

The stacks in the old Wise Library used to be open; now they are closed and we store a lot of the University Archives here.

The West Virginia & Regional History Center is the special collections unit of WVU Libraries and the home of WVU’s university archives.  It all began in the 1920s when an ambitious WVU history professor started to seek support for preserving the state’s historical records. By 1933, we were authorized by the University as the “Division of Documents,” and in 1935 we hired our first full-time archivist Dr. Festus P. Summers.  Read the rest of this entry »

Dreaming of Spring: Historic Garden Catalogs in the West Virginia and Regional History Center

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
January 17th, 2018

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian

Long, cold winter nights are the perfect time to dream of spring.  What shall we plant in the garden this year?  Will we order plants, seeds, or some of both?  Will we have a vegetable garden or will we plant flowers?  Should we dig a new bed for those iris we’ve always wanted to plant?  This might be the year!  If you’re like me, you’ve already received garden catalogs offering heirloom seeds or the latest cultivars. I always get drawn into the beautiful images of plants, the latest introductions, and ways to use them in the home and garden.  There’s nothing like looking at garden catalogs on a snowy day to make you think of spring.  Read the rest of this entry »

WVRHC’s Latest Newsletter Features Ancella Bickley

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
January 9th, 2018

The latest issue of the West Virginia & Regional History Center’s newsletter has been released!  The feature article is “Ancella Bickley Papers Document the Life and Work of Pioneer Black Educator and Historian.” Additional articles include a celebration of the recent donation of a set of glassware of the Kennedy Presidential pattern, which was produced by the Morgantown Glass Company, and the donation of a set of historical newspapers that document key moments in history. We also honor our recently retired Coordinator of Public Services, Kevin Fredette, who helped the patrons of the Center for 10 years.

You can read a PDF copy of the newsletter or contact the Center to request a print copy.  If you want to see back issues of the newsletter, they are all online and accessible through our Newsletter webpage.

Celebrating Nitro, 100 Years, 1917 to 2017

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 19th, 2017

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian

Panoramic View of Nitro

One hundred years ago this month, on December 23, 1917, ground was broken for the development of Nitro, a town born out of necessity.  Not long after the United States entered World War I it became clear that there was a critical shortage of gunpowder and production lagged far behind requirements.  According to William Wintz’s history, Nitro:  The World War I Boon Town, Congress called an emergency session, passing the “Deficiency Appropriates Act” on October 6, 1917, to address this shortfall.

Congress determined that three plants were needed to produce the necessary gunpowder.  Each plant would be capable of producing 500,000 pounds.  Locations for the plants were considered in ten states.  West Virginia became the top choice for a location, just 14 miles from Charleston with adequate water supplies, transportation, topography and access to raw materials.  Sites in Nashville, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky were also selected.  In the end, production was bumped up to 700,000 pounds for two plants, Nitro and Nashville.  With this level of production, the Louisville site was no longer needed.

Nitro, under construction

These photos, above and below, are from a photograph album depicting the earliest days of Nitro as it was under development.  Above, Nitro under construction.  Below, the town of Nitro as seen from a nearby hill.

Town of Nitro as seen from nearby hill

A true boom town, Nitro soon saw the influx of thousands of men and materials.  Shortly thereafter, twenty-seven 200 bed barracks were under construction.  110,000 people were employed to build the plant over an eleven month period.  This plant, known as Explosive Plant “C,” could produce 350 pounds of smokeless gunpowder a day.

A town of over 24,000 people sprung up during the same period.  The steady stream of workmen, servicemen, and their families all needed housing.  Since the area was nothing but grass and corn fields when the government purchased it, housing had to be provided.  The War Department contracted with a Huntington company, Minter Homes, founded by William E. Minter as a division of his Huntington Lumber & Supply Company in 1913.

Minter Homes, like the better known Sears & Roebuck and Aladdin homes, supplied ready-made houses that could be ordered from a catalog and delivered to the customer’s site for construction. The War Department purchased a whopping 1,724 Minter Homes for construction in Nitro from February to July 1918.   It has been said that the construction of Nitro was so rapid that a workman could leave his home in the morning and when he returned at the end of the day, another street with an entire row of houses would have been built in his absence.

Since the homes needed furnishing too, Minter Homes also provided the furniture.  Wicker was an inexpensive choice for supplying the homes.  The Nitro photograph album in the WVRHC collection shows one of these Minter Homes, including photographs of the rooms.  Interior photographs from this period are quite rare.  The following photographs below show a charming cottage in Nitro, with morning glories covering the porch, supplied by Minter Homes along with its interior views.  According to a Minter Homes brochure, this was considered an “executive’s home,” probably used in Nitro as the home of an officer.  Heating was supplied by natural gas/forced air, walls were plaster, laundry tubs were included, as were the electricity and the “ornamental” light fixtures.  Everything was new when these photos were taken. Notice that although the flowers are blooming, the front yard is nothing but bare dirt.

Minter home in Nitro, with flowers on porch and a dirt front yard

Interior of Minter home in Nitro, showing fireplace

Some of the wicker furniture supplied by Minter Homes can be seen in these photos, above and below.

Interior of Minter home in Nitro, showing wicker chair and loveseat

A beautiful dining room in the same home.

Interior of Minter home in Nitro, showing dining room

Stop by the West Virginia and Regional History Center to view this photograph album documenting the birth of Nitro as a munitions manufacturing site.  You can also read all about the history of Nitro in Nitro: The World War I Boom Town by William D. Wintz in the WVRHC collection.  Check out Nitro’s history on their website:  http://historyofnitro.com/index.html.  A silent film on Nitro, made in 1918, by the U.S. Signal Corps is available on YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHcLohqsoa0

Resources:
WVRHC A&M 4122: Nitro photograph album circa 1918 – 1919
E-WV:  https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/2001
Banner image: West Virginia State Archives
Wintz, William D.  Nitro: The World War I Boom Town
Nitro: A Historic Past, An Exciting Future:  http://cityofnitro.org/west-virginia-history/
Nitro, West Virginia:  http://historyofnitro.com/index.html
Minter Homes: Homes for Workmen:  http://historyofnitro.com/ExplosivesPlantC/MinterHomes/HomesForWorkmen78-85.pdf
Nitro Housing Layout:  http://historyofnitro.com/ExplosivesPlantC/MinterHomes/housing_layouts.pdf

West Virginia and the Vietnam War

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 12th, 2017

Blog Post by Catherine Rakowski, Administrative Associate at the WVRHC

The United States’ involvement in Vietnam (also known as French Indochina) began as early as 1950 in an effort to contain the spread of communism.  Throughout the next 25 years, the American support for the anti-communist government of South Vietnam escalated from supplying funding, military advisors and equipment to a full-scale involvement of U.S. forces fighting the war.

By the end of America’s most controversial war in 1975, more than 3 million Americans had served and 58,220 had died.  The state of West Virginia sent 36,578 troops of which 1,182 died. West Virginia suffered the highest casualty rate in the nation.

The West Virginia and Regional History Center is now displaying through December 2017, in the Rockefeller Gallery (2nd floor of the Wise Library) the exhibit, “West Virginia and the Vietnam War.” It includes political papers, maps, photographs, correspondence, artifacts, ephemera and the stories of individuals involved in the war on the front lines and at home. The photographs in this blog are from that exhibit.  Read the rest of this entry »

Mirroring the LOC: Mirror Images in the Collection of the WVRHC

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 4th, 2017

Blog Post by Jessica Eichlin, Photographs Manager and Preservationist

One of my favorite parts of my job as an archivist is seeing what other museums and archives around the world are doing through social media.

The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division uses a blog to let people see their collections online. I love seeing their posts about the items they have, the projects they are working on with the public, and their new acquisitions. The newest post on their “Picture This” blog, “Double Take: Mirror Images,” was especially intriguing, as I knew the WVRHC had a number of photographs of mirrors in our own collections. Photographs of mirrors can be particularly fascinating due to the images captured, deliberately or unintentionally, in the mirror itself.

Check out the original post here, then keep scrolling to see some of the WVRHC mirror photos!  Read the rest of this entry »

Our Apple Heritage

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 29th, 2017

Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC.

Fun fact of the day: apple trees are a member of the rose family, and are not native to North America—they spread from Asia through Europe and colonists brought them to this continent in the 1600s.

Two African-American men with apple sacks, in front of an apple bin in an orchard

Apple Pickers, 1975

There were once 1000 to 1600 varieties of apples grown in the southern and central Appalachian region, which is pretty astounding considering that they aren’t native and that Wikipedia tells us there are over 7500 cultivars of apple.  As of 2011, one study suggested there were still over 600 distinct varieties grown in the region.  At least two of these cultivars are special West Virginia contributions. Read the rest of this entry »