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Remembering the Farmington Mine Disaster November 20, 1968

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 19th, 2019

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Assistant Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

Huge plume of smoke billowing from an obscured structure over a parking lot

Early on the morning of November 20, 1968, while the day was still in darkness, an explosion rocked the Consolidation Coal No. 9 mine in Marion County, WV.  The Farmington Mine Disaster, as it is remembered today, took the lives of 78 miners.  Of the 99 miners at work in the mine that day, only 21 survived.  Of the 78 miners who died, 19 of the dead have never been recovered.  Their grave is the mine where they worked. 

Bill Evans, at that time the editor of the Fairmont Times, remembered the disaster in a letter he wrote to a friend on Christmas afternoon, 1968.  Evans spoke about the disaster from a reporter’s prospective.  He recounts that the original reports of the explosion appeared under a Mannington dateline.  Not until later was this information corrected to read Farmington.

Evans writes at length on the sensational tactics used by the national media as they reported the explosion.  According to Evans, the first few days following the explosion families were stationed in the company store, “constantly surrounded by cameras.”

“Anytime a woman broke down and cried, she was instantly cornered by a dozen or more TV people six or eight of them sticking mikes under her nose.”  This kind of attention was more than some of the No. 9 men could take.  They took the initiative to protect the families from the reporters and moved them to a local church and community center where they could wait for news undisturbed. 

Evans lists some of the papers and reporters on hand covering the story including Ben A. Franklin of the New York Times, Roger Stuart from the Pittsburgh Press, as well as reporters from the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post.

Three men in coal mining helmets, looking upwards from a bucket that is carrying them up a shaft
Gary Martin, left, and Bud Hillberry, right, and an unidentified man are hoisted from the Farmington No. 9 mine.  They were the last men to escape the disaster alive.  Photo by Bob Campione.

In addition to Fairmont Times editor, Bill Evans’ letter, the West Virginia and Regional History Center also has books on the subject of the Farmington Mine Disaster.  Among them is Bonnie E. Stewart’s book, No. 9: The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster, published by the West Virginia University Press.  The book takes a close look at public records, interviews miners, and describes the conditions underground before and after the disaster.  Stewart also addresses the legal actions taken by the miners’ widows to gain justice and establish coal mine safety legislation.

Three men in coal mining helmets, looking upwards from a bucket that is carrying them up a shaft. Overlaid with text "No. 9 The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster Bonnie E. Stewart"

We invite you to visit the West Virginia and Regional History Center to view the Evan’s letter and browse our selection of books on the Farmington Mining Disaster.  These items, from our shelves and our archives, serve as a permanent memorial to the miners who lost their lives in this explosion, 51 years ago. 

Resources: 

My West Virginia Family Ghost Story

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 15th, 2019

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC

By the time this is published, Halloween will be a diminishing memory for most but I think ghost stories are enjoyed year round!  So I wanted to share my family’s ghost story. When I was in elementary school, one of my teachers read to the class from the West Virginia classic, The Telltale Lilac Bush and Other West Virginia Ghost Stories by Dr. Ruth Ann Musick.  The book was published in 1965. Dr. Musick was folklorist and faculty member at Fairmont State College (now University.)

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Halloween Poem

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 31st, 2019

Courtesy of Stewart Plein, Assistant Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

Enjoy this short Halloween poem from an item in our rare book collection:

Carved jack-o-lanterns sketch

We are merry Jack O’Lanterns, See!
Come and join us in our glee,
While we dance beneath the tree,
While we dance upon the green,
While we dance on Hallowe’en,
Come and join our merry ranks,
While we play our jolly pranks
Come and hear us as we tell,
What the witches know so well,
Come, Oh come! And do not wait,
While we dance here on the green,
While we dance on Hallowe’en.

Sketch of children carrying jack-o-lanterns

Poem and images (which can be printed as coloring pages, if you like) all from:

Lewis, G.W. The Story Primer.  Illustrated by Bess Bruce Cleaveland.  Third edition.  Chicago: G.W. Lewis Publishing Co. 1915.  Pages 70-72.

Happy Halloween from the WVRHC!

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 28th, 2019

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

Still looking for costume ideas?  In addition to the many historical outfits you can find examples of in our West Virginia History OnView database of photos, we also have examples of costumes people have worn in the past.

With basic papier-mâché skills and some rather large clothes, you could make your very own Very Tall Person costume:

Children hiding behind five people in very tall person costumes.
Parade Participants in Tall Costumes, Morgantown, W. Va., early 1900s
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October is Archives Month!

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 14th, 2019

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC. Photographs by Jessica Eichlin, Reference Supervisor.

October is Archives Month and the occasion has caused me to reflect on the work we do at the West Virginia & Regional History Center. I often give tours and lead classes where I have a short amount of time to relay all the moving parts that makes us a thriving archive.  In this blog post, I hope to do the same: provide a short overview of the myriad activities that comprise the important work we do.

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National Newspaper Week: Celebrating Morgantown’s Newspapers

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 10th, 2019

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Assistant Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

Logo stating "Think First, Know Your 5 Freedoms, National Newspaper Week, October 6-12"

The editorial in yesterday’s Dominion Post newspaper for Wednesday, October 9, 2019, discussed National Newspaper Week, which recognizes the service of newspapers and their employees across North America.  This year, National Newspaper Week is October 6-12, and it is sponsored by the Newspaper Association Managers.  The poster pictured above, is the logo for this year’s celebration.

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Preserving the Emory Kemp Collection Inspires a Former Student and Spawns a New Addition at the WVRHC

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 30th, 2019

Blog post by Alanna Natanson, 2018-2019 Preserve WV AmeriCorps member who served at the WVRHC

Universities love monetary donations to help fulfill our missions, but at the West Virginia and Regional History Center (WVRHC), the special collections library at West Virginia University (WVU), we love donations of another kind: old papers! Specifically, the materials that individuals and organizations in West Virginia and Central Appalachia create during their lifetimes. My work with the papers of Dr. Emory Kemp as part of my AmeriCorps service caught the attention of WVU alum Glenn Longacre, and it inspired him to offer research materials from his own career to the WVRHC.

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Tales from Japan: Lafcadio Hearn and Japanese Folklore

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 25th, 2019

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Assistant Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

This past weekend I lazily paged through a recent issue of the New Yorker magazine and found a book review for Monique Truong’s The Sweetest Fruits.  After reading it, I found that I was already familiar with its subject, the writer Lafcadio Hearn (1840 – 1904), whose books are part of the WVU Library’s rare book collection. 

From reading the review I gathered that Truong’s book can be seen as an imagined conversation that relives moments in Hearn’s life, as spoken by the women who were important to him. The promotional description on Amazon’s website describes the book in this way: “The lives of writers can often best be understood through the eyes of those who nurtured them and made their work possible. In The Sweetest Fruits . . .  three women tell the story of their time with Lafcadio Hearn, a globetrotting writer best known for his books about Meiji-era Japan.” 

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WVRHC receives fifth NEH grant to digitize historical newspapers

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
September 18th, 2019
Picture of a front page of a newspaper

This image is an example of the searchable content available on the Chronicling America website.

The West Virginia University Libraries’ West Virginia & Regional History Center has received a $201,917 grant – its fifth from the National Endowment for the Humanities – to continue digitizing newspapers published in West Virginia from 1790 to 1923.

The award is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program, a collaboration between the NEH and the Library of Congress to enlist libraries and institutions from around the country to create a digital database of historical United States newspapers. This grant brings the NEH’s total funding of the WVRHC’s efforts to $968,000.

“We are honored that the NEH recognizes the tremendous value of the historical newspapers archived in the WVRHC,” WVRHC Director John Cuthbert said. “Their support speaks volumes to the instrumental roles the Mountain State and its citizens played in the formation and growth of our nation.”

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Lucy Shuttleworth at WVU

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 10th, 2019

Blog post by Jessica Eichlin, Reference Supervisor, WVRHC.

Now that the students at West Virginia University have settled back into their school routines, we thought it might be a good idea to take a look back at what other WVU students experienced in the past.  This post will just focus on one such student: Lucy Shuttlesworth, who attended WVU from 1917-1921.

Headshot portrait of Lucy Shuttleworth
Lucy Shuttlesworth’s high school senior portrait, 1917.  From the Allerlei.
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The Incredible Story behind the Collapse of the National Bank of Keystone

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 4th, 2019

Blog post by Linda Blake, University Librarian Emeritas

Twenty years ago, on September 1, 1999, a federal agency, the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC), closed the National Bank of Keystone and turned it over to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Button on jacket that says "I survived the 1st National Bank of Keystone"
Button on jacket that says “I survived the 1st National Bank of Keystone”
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Mountaineer Week Collection

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 26th, 2019

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

The University Archives recently received records from the Office of Multicultural Programs that cover the planning of Mountaineer Week in the past. Among other things, we now have their planning binders covering 1995-2005.  This has been a very enjoyable collection to process, though it has made me crave funnel cake and kettle corn a few months too early.  (Mountaineer Week runs November 1-9, 2019.) There are a few highlights that I found so far to share with you.

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New Microfilm Scanners at the WVRHC

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 16th, 2019

Blog post by Jessica Eichlin, Reference Supervisor, WVRHC.

Screenshot of ScanPro software, showing historical letter with enlarged picture of letterhead of the Ruffner Bros. Wholesale Grocers
Screenshot of ScanPro software, showing letterhead of the Ruffner Bros. Wholesale Grocers

The West Virginia and Regional History Center just upgraded two of our microfilm machines to the ScanPro 3000, a brand of digital microfilm readers.  Frequent visitors may have already seen these machines in action.  We already have two digital microfilm machines, both ViewScans.  The addition of the two ScanPro microfilm readers gives patrons greater flexibility to use the machine with which they are most comfortable.  Alongside our two ViewScan digital machines, the ScanPro microfilm readers will give patrons better control over viewing and image editing, and will allow digital capture of  images.

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WVU Women in 1969

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 13th, 2019

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

As classes are set to resume in just a few weeks and celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing have just ended, it seems appropriate to look at what life would have been like on the WVU campus back in 1969.  The collections at the West Virginia and Regional History Center include a wealth of University Archives that document the history of WVU.  The West Virginia University Office of Student Life, Publications collection (A&M 5192) contains a number of pamphlets, programs, and handbooks that provide a glimpse into campus life. 

One item, a pamphlet entitled, West Virginia University Coed 1969-70, published by the Associated Women Students organization (AWS) provides insight into the lives of women at WVU fifty years ago.  It presents information about AWS, other women’s organizations on campus, and “coediquette,” the rules and guidelines for women at WVU.

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“Salt Pork, West Virginia”

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 23rd, 2019

Blog post by Linda Blake, University Librarian Emeritas

Don’t try to find Salt Pork, West Virginia on a map because it’s not a real community.  I wondered about the location of Salt Pork when I ran across references to it while processing the papers of William “Bill” Archer.  Archer, a long time writer for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, documented everything about the Bluefield and southern West Virginia area including its rich contribution to American music.  I also noted in Archer’s papers information on Louis Jordan, a swing music artist from the 1940s, and Wallace W. McNeal, a Mercer County magistrate, with regards to Salt Pork.  After I saw that Louis Jordan was honored at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., then I knew I had to find out exactly where Salt Pork, West Virginia was located.

Buildings with a road on the left and wooded hills in the background
Bluefield, WV, ca. 1946
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Dr. James Vance Boughner and His Morgantown Home

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 15th, 2019

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

The reference staff at the West Virginia & Regional History Center answers all kinds of interesting questions and it is always an extra pleasure when we can help patrons find that piece of information that they are very eager to find.  I had that experience this week.

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Picturing West Virginia

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 1st, 2019

Blog post by Catherine Rakowski, Administrative Associate, WVRHC.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Boston physician, amateur photographer and father of SCOTUS Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., described photography as “the mirror with a memory.”  In 1859 he believed that there would “soon be such an enormous collection of forms that they will have to be classified and arranged in vast libraries, as books are.”

Holmes’s forethought was correct. At the West Virginia and Regional History Center, over a million “photographic records” are among the treasures in our holdings, ranging from the earliest photographic images, daguerreotypes, to the current born-digital images.

On West Virginia Day, June 20, 2019, the History Center opened a new exhibit in the Davis Family Galleries located on the 6th floor of the Wise Library.  The title of the exhibit is “Picturing West Virginia: Early Photography in the Mountain State.”

This weblog will focus on a few items from the exhibit. They happen to be some of my favorites:   

Tabletop stereoscope viewer
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Oliver P. Chitwood, Namesake of Chitwood Hall

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 18th, 2019

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

Oliver Chitwood as an older man, seated, holding a book

While working to make our card catalog for the President’s Office Archive more accessible, I came across microfilmed faculty application materials from the history department. These included Oliver Perry Chitwood’s application for work at WVU, as well as some correspondence between him and Dr. Purinton, then University President, who was recruiting Chitwood.

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It’s a Good Hair Day!

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 11th, 2019

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

Having a good hair day? Or is it time for a new do?  Humans have been cutting, coloring, curling, and styling their hair since ancient times. This week the Center blog includes a sample of images that show shampoos, haircuts, hair dressers, barber shops, and beauty salons in West Virginia.  Enjoy!

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West Virginia Day celebration to focus on early photography

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
June 7th, 2019
Two men standing in front of a saloon
Two unidentified men raise their mugs of beer outside a Tucker County saloon, ca. 1885.

If you’re on Facebook, twitter or Instagram, it’s impossible to miss the selfies people post to announce a night on the town, a trip to an exotic location or just a new pair of sunglasses.

Set aside the Internet and smartphones, and they’re simply following a social norm established more than 150 years ago. While Millennials are growing up on social media, the Civil War generation was the first to grow up with photography.

“Photography was an earth-shattering innovation in the mid-19th century, perhaps like the introduction of the computer or the cell phone,” said John Cuthbert, director of the West Virginia and Regional History Center. “It was introduced in the U.S. around 1840 and within a couple of decades people all over America were getting their pictures taken by itinerant photographers who would travel from town to town.”

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