Ask A Librarian


Posted by Mary Alvarez.
March 11th, 2024

Written by Devon Lewars

In today’s standards, it is frowned upon to tear signatures from their page, however, this used to be a common practice amongst collectors. Signatures were often torn from pages of correspondence, deeds, or even wills. The West Virginia and Regional History Center (WVRHC) currently owns multiple archives and manuscripts (A&M) collections that include items of this nature. A collection of signatures was donated to the WVRHC and a few of those pieces are currently on display in the rare book room.

Similarly, in the past, it was common for individuals to loot sites of archeological significance. An artifact is most valuable when it is found in relation to the age of the soil it rests in. If an object is taken from its historical context, it loses value.

In the 1970s, five cultural shields of the Acoma Pueblo (Uh-Ko-Muh Pweh-Blo) village of New Mexico vanished from the home of one family. Although under the protection of one caretaker, the shields were collectively owned by every member of the tribe. The shields, when not used in ceremony, were kept in a cold, dark room. They were part of the tribe’s identity, never to leave the Acoma or be destroyed.

In 2016, after nearly 50 years, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the FBI brought photos of one shield to Acoma. The shield was pictured under fluorescent lights and to be sold at EVE, a Paris auction house. Elena Saavedra Buckley, an editor of the HighCountryNews perfectly describes the shield as “round and rawhide, it showed a face in its center, with black, low-scooped horns, like a water buffalos, and a red-lipped, jagged smile. The rich colors of the paint — emerald green, with red, blue and yellow radiating from the face’s edges — seemed to have survived the years unfaded, even as they flaked and mottled the surface. Two feathers with rusted tips, like an eagle’s, hung at each side, pierced through the leather and strung by their quills.”[i] It wasn’t until the evening of November 15, 2019, that the shield was seen by members of the tribe. Acoma leaders prayed alongside the shield past midnight that day, never leaving its side.

Acoma Governor, Kurt Riley – Central figure in the fight for the repatriation of the shield.

Between 2016 and 2019 the Acoma Pueblo fought desperately against the convoluted systems of Paris’s government and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Instances of looting and/or stealing artifacts from native reservations have been occurring for centuries. The repatriation of these artifacts is a slow and often grueling process for the tribes and those that see the loss of the items rarely get to see its return.

Although the donated signatures in our care have lost their context, they provide an opportunity for current generations to reflect on practices of the past. The WVRHC and other institutions that make research accessible do not condone the tearing or cutting of historical documents.

Courtesy of West Virginia & Regional History Center – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Courtesy of West Virginia & Regional History Center – Harriet Beecher Stowe

For further discussion of this collection, refer to Stewart Plein, Curator of Rare Books at the history center and frankly, a wonderful person to chat with. To learn more about current processing standards speak to Jane LaBarbara, Head of Archives and Manuscripts and a strong advocate for the protection and accessibility of archival collections.

[i] Buckley, Elena Saavedra. “Unraveling the Mystery of a Stolen Ceremonial Shield.” HighCountryNews, August 1, 2020.

Fasnacht in Helvetia

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
March 4th, 2024

Written by Dee Elliot

Today, we’ll be looking at the fascinating winter festival celebrated in Helvetia, West Virginia.  This celebration is known as Fasnacht, an annual Pennsylvania Dutch celebration that marks the ending of winter, as well as the coming of Ash Wednesday.  Much like Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras, Fasnacht precedes the Lenten period for many Catholics and Protestants that celebrate it.  However, one tiny village in West Virginia with a population of only 84 people puts on an entire festival each year to mark the passage of the seasons.  Helvetia was settled in 1869 by a small group of Swiss and German immigrants, as evident by the multitude of Swiss flags seen around town.  Every year around February or March, whenever Fat Tuesday falls, the small, usually sleepy village comes alive with hundreds of people converging on the town to celebrate Fasnacht.  In 2024, Fasnacht took place on February 13, with the festival itself taking place the weekend before on February 10.  In 2023, there was estimated to have been almost 2000 people in the village taking part in the celebration!

Helvetia Fasnacht in 1977, David H. Sutton Collection at the WVRHC

Fasnacht itself is a fascinating, unique holiday that signals not only the ending of winter, but provides an opportunity for the otherwise small community to make an impactful mark on the vast, rugged culture of West Virginia.  Starting out with a parade through town, people construct and wear creative (and sometimes frightening) masks to ward away bad spirits.  Doing this is an effort to keep winter from lasting any longer.  After the parade, everyone gathers in city hall and takes part in a massive dance for three or so hours before an effigy of Old Man Winter, the personification of winter, is cut down from his perch and dragged outside where it’s thrown onto a bonfire.  With the burning of winter comes the warmth of spring…that is, if Old Man Winter doesn’t have any more life left in him. 

One of the many masks of Fasnacht!
Old Man Winter is burned!

Before about five years ago, Fasnacht was more of a local event that didn’t really get much attention from outside the immediate area, but has dramatically increased with the release of the video game Fallout 76 in 2018, made by Bethesda Studios.  Taking place in a post-apocalyptic West Virginia, the player can take part in a virtual Fasnacht parade, complete with wearing creative (and sometimes frightening) masks.  During the Fasnacht event, one must fight off massive radioactive toads in order to keep the festivities going, and the player is rewarded with one of the many bizarre masks related to the event.

Helvetia in Fallout 76 (2018)
Fasnacht masks in Fallout 76 (2018)

The event has gotten more and more popular recently, turning a relatively unknown local event in which people would primarily privately celebrate into a must-see festival!  This year was the biggest yet, actually.  So much so, in fact, that tickets to the event sold out!  Special shirts and beer steins were made for the festival, so people can have their own little piece of Helvetia.  There is also a general store in town that, when the festival is not in full swing, has a Fasnacht mask museum that people can visit while they are in the area, as well as a Swiss/German Restaurant The Hütte Restaurant to further celebrate the origins of the villagers of Helvetia.

The West Virginia and Regional History Center is proud to have several collections concerning not only Fasnacht, but life in Helvetia as a whole.  Particularly is a great resource for anyone looking for photos of both Fasnacht and Helvetia over the years.  The David H. Sutton photo collection is also a fantastic resource for those who want a glimpse at Fasnacht and those who used to live in the area.  Not to mention in the Oral History collection, there are several pieces detailing the celebration.  While the masks may have changed since the earliest festivals, interest in Fasnacht has only gone up!  Come and take a look at our holdings about Fasnacht and Helvetia today!

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. 

“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:


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


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.

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.


1.  “Robert F. Scott, Class of 1942”. West Virginia History OnView. Accessed November 5, 2023.

2.“Research Starters: Worldwide Deaths in World War II,” The National WWII Museum, accessed October 17, 2023,


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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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:,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.

“Robert F. Scott, Class of 1942, West Virginia University, from St. Albas, W. Va.” West Virginia History OnView. Accessed November 5, 2023.

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.

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  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.  

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.


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!


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

Read the rest of this entry »

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,

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,

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.

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.

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.   

Telling It Like It Was: The Civil War Diaries of Captain George W. Johnson, Part II

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
April 10th, 2023

Written by Erica Uszak

The diaries of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, showed that Civil War soldiers found many ways to cope with the stresses of army life (see A&M 4538). While many soldiers filled their time through socially and morally acceptable activities like letter writing and reading, soldiers also found entertainment through other means. Although war was a serious business, alcohol, gambling, and humor were ways for these men to break the tension, suffering, and death around them.

Often soldiers were found drinking liquor in camp.[1] One reporter noticed that upon pay day, soldiers immediately exchanged a portion of their pay for liquor. He noted with disgust how many soldiers were seen in the streets, “lying in the gutters, or on the doorsteps, in a state of beastly intoxication.”[2] The number of intoxicated men had also led to some violence in the form of riots. As noted in the previous post, Captain Johnson also commented with disgust when he encountered hundreds of intoxicated Union soldiers in Alexandria, clobbering and beating one another. He frequently commented upon the presence of alcohol in camp, among the men and his fellow officers, and the measures he and others took to keep them in line.

In February 1862, Johnson recounted how the regimental commander, Charles A. DeVilliers, became so exasperated with soldiers’ drunkenness that he ordered the alcohol in a nearby warehouse to be poured out and emptied in the town’s streets. Desperate soldiers soon found the “large puddles” of liquor and scooped up the alcohol into their canteens. DeVilliers ordered Johnson to station two soldiers to “guard the puddles.” Only an hour later, soldiers brought two drunken men to Johnson’s attention. Johnson saw that the one intoxicated man was one of the very same soldiers “I had stationed to keep others from drinking.”[3] The temptation had apparently become too great for him to resist.

“Camp Punishments--Too Fond of Whisky--Scene in the Army of the Mississippi.” Harper’s Weekly, June 28, 1862. Library of Congress
(Above): “Camp Punishments–Too Fond of Whisky–Scene in the Army of the Mississippi.” Harper’s Weekly, June 28, 1862. Library of Congress.

However, as demonstrated with the Harper’s Weekly print (above), soldiers found in a state of intoxication could be subject to punishment. In this print, a soldier wears a barrel with writing that reads, “Too fond of whisky, forged an order on the surgeon.” Soldiers desperate for alcohol would go to desperate measures–however, they had to be willing to face the consequences, including possible humiliation and punishment in front of their comrades.

Gambling and card-playing could accompany drinking, serving as outlets to relieve the stresses of war for some soldiers. Johnson noted in late January 1862, “The boys say they have a very good time generally playing cards drinking whiskey.”[4] Soldiers grumbled when they were without the comforts of alcohol and cards to help them with the ruggedness and boredom of camp life. Some enlisted men complained to Johnson when he reprimanded them for playing cards after the playing of Taps at night. They argued that “the officers do it [play cards] and why not let them do the same.” Johnson noted that as he listened to his men’s complaints, his fellow officers were “playing [cards] in our quarters” that same moment.[5] The men bristled at the unfair double standard.

Johnson looked down upon officers who spent too much time in immoral activities and were an unfit example for their men. Johnson frequently commented on officers he disliked and who were too fond of alcohol or were corrupt. For example, he described the regimental quartermaster as a man who “knows as much about his business now as he ever will know,” implying in his following sentence that the quartermaster knew very little. He criticized the quartermaster as a man who “Pays a great deal of attention to drinking whiskey & running after wimmen [women,] playing card & C.” instead of his soldierly duties.[6] Whether Johnson confronted his officers directly or confined his commentary to his diary remains unknown.

At an encampment at Petersburg, Virginia, soldiers of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry play cards in front of their tents during the Civil War.” Anchor: A North Carolina History Online Resource
(Above): “At an encampment at Petersburg, Virginia, soldiers of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry play cards in front of their tents during the Civil War.” Anchor: A North Carolina History Online Resource.

Soldiers also found clever and humorous ways to get what they wanted. In July 1862, Johnson had paid a local citizen for “huckel berries” and some coffee. However, once the man set down “several jugs of milk” and left them temporarily, Johnson took the milk for his own use and “in the inter time filled his jugs with water.” Upon his return, “he tried to sell his milk but of course the boys did not want to purchase” since they knew better.[7] Less than a month later, a Union soldier of Johnson’s regiment “dressed in a Butternut suit,” and accompanied by his comrades acting as “guards,” entered the home of a Confederate family, pretending that he was a Confederate prisoner. According to Johnson, “after hearing his tale the old woman & daughter just flew around to acomade [accommodate]” him and handed him “a good supply [of] some whiskey & wine.” The men were quite glad “that the delusion worked well.”[8] 

Soldiers could be very daring in their pranks and put themselves in danger. In August 1863, one soldier thought it might be funny to provoke the Confederate soldiers on picket duty across the river. The Union soldier “was attending to a call of nature” and then “exhibited his posterior[,] asking them if they had ever saw a Yankee Gun Boat and if not to satisfy their curiosity by looking at his ass.” In response to this insult, the Confederates “immediately fired on him,” but he escaped safely, as “he laughingly got out of their range.”[9]

George Johnson’s diaries show that soldiers turned to different means to alleviate their burdens and enjoy themselves in spite of the danger. They could be clever and daring, intoxicated and unruly, and many other things. Johnson’s diary entries show the daily experiences of soldiers who often lived on the wild side.

For further information about George Johnson’s diaries, see A&M 4538.

[1] Michael Mahr, “‘Half the Time Unfit for Duty’: Alcoholism in the Civil War,” The National Museum of Civil War Medicine, posted September 2, 2021,,ward%20for%20simply%20being%20drunk..

[2] Quoted in R. Gregory Lande, Psychological Consequences of the Civil War (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc, 2017), 101. EBSCOhost Ebook.

[3] George W. Johnson, Feb 4, 1862, diary entry, A&M 4538, Civil War Diary Transcriptions and

Related Material of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, West Virginia

and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

[4] Johnson, January 31, 1862, diary entry, A&M 4538, Civil War Diary Transcriptions and

Related Material of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

[5] Johnson, June 30, 1862, diary entry,  A&M 4538, Civil War Diary Transcriptions and

Related Material of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

[6] Johnson, July 1, 1862, diary entry, A&M 4538, Civil War Diary Transcriptions and

Related Material of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

[7] Johnson, July 21, 1862, A&M 4538, Civil War Diary Transcriptions and

Related Material of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

[8] Johnson, August 13, 1862, A&M 4538, Civil War Diary Transcriptions and

Related Material of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

[9] Johnson, August 23, 1863, A&M 4538, Civil War Diary Transcriptions and

Related Material of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Telling It Like It Was: The Civil War Diaries of Captain George W. Johnson, Part I

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
April 3rd, 2023

Written by Erica Uszak

Publications like Harper’s Weekly and Currier & Ives tended to romanticize the life of a Civil War soldier by painting sentimental pictures of camp. Such sentimentalism can be seen in “The Soldier’s Dream of Home” (pictured below). Here the handsome soldier sleeps peacefully, his hand resting by his opened letters, dreaming of his wife and child. Such images reinforced the depiction of Union soldiers as loyally steadfast, responsible family men. The camp scene in the background looks quiet with a few soldiers sitting underneath the flag. Others gather around the cannon with their rifles in hand, perhaps on guard duty. Even in the midst of war, there is little sense of fear, chaos, or violence, although the bright red blanket under the soldier may foreshadow future bloodshed. Nevertheless, it appears to be a more idyllic setting than other wartime scenes. Hand-painted lithographs tended to show a civilian’s conception of war rather than the brutality that soldiers experienced on the battlefield.

A painting of a solider in a blue uniform asleep on the battlefield, dreaming of dancing with a woman.
(Above) “The Soldier’s Dream of Home,” Currier & Ives, circa 1861-1865. Library of Congress,

Captain George W. Johnson of the 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry had no sentimental picture of soldier life. His diary transcriptions (see A&M 4538) present descriptions of camp life, soldier conduct, and battlefield violence that are often brutally honest. His accounts are not romanticized but show that these were real men, including a few teenagers with an eye for mischief, who had their strengths and flaws. He details accounts of overindulgence in alcohol, sexual promiscuity, and crude soldier behavior and pranks in camp. In this Victorian Era, such subjects were socially taboo to mention, much less discuss. Yet, since Johnson never intended for anyone to read his private thoughts, he recorded his observations in an entirely direct and blunt manner.

George Johnson was about 35 years old when he enlisted in the 11th Ohio Infantry in June 1861. He resided in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his wife, Sarah Hardin Johnson, and at least six young children.[1] It must have been difficult for him to decide to go to war for his country when he had so many young children at home. Nevertheless, when he enlisted on June 19, 1861, he committed himself to serving three years in the army. He began his service as a second lieutenant in Company K. About six months later, he was transferred to and promoted as first lieutenant in Company A in early January 1862.[2] He was wounded in his right side during the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862, and was promoted to captain of Company K two months later.  His wound from the battle later prompted him to offer his resignation in December 1863 and bothered him for the rest of his life.

As an officer, it was Johnson’s responsibility to ensure order and discipline, as well as act as a role model for his men. In several entries, he listed soldiers’ names and their companies, perhaps to keep track of them for certain duties or other matters. He noted other officers who failed to serve as good examples for their men, and how men reacted to bad officers. One soldier, after drinking too much on the 4th of July, got ahold of “a large sheet of fools cap” paper and wrote on it “Kiss My Ass.” He then sealed the paper in an envelope to give to his captain.[3] However, such criticism could put soldiers at risk of charges for a court martial. Colonel Charles DeVilliers, a man whom Johnson despised and who organized the regiment in its beginning, was brought to court martial and discharged for multiple reasons, including the theft of civilian property.[4] One of the charges brought against him was that he berated his fellow officers as cowardly several times in front of all of the soldiers in camp. Most notably, he insulted another officer by declaring, “You Lieut Mc Abee  are a coward[.] you have more shit in your breeches than in your guts.”[5] Profanity directed at officers in front of other men was not to be tolerated. If use of profanity was not addressed by officers, it encouraged the enlisted men to disrespect their officers as well.

Johnson observed widespread alcohol abuse and noted how he and other officers struggled to keep their men in line. In early February 1862, he declared, “After I get the command the privates have a good time but the Commissioned Officers  have to come down to the scratch,” detailing how two men, presumably commissioned officers, stumbled upon an ongoing drill “staving drunk and not keeping still.” Another officer “had them put in the Guard House.”[6] In another more shocking instance in August 1862, he recorded his venture into the town of Alexandria, Virginia, where he “saw about 800 drunken soldiers” in the Union Army of the Potomac and observed many soldiers fighting with “fists, some bayonets & some guns.” He then added, “I never seen anything worse before,” showing how things could spiral out of control. However, he proudly noted that all of the privates in the 11th Ohio were present at regimental roll call and had not participated in the fighting.[7] He was determined to keep order and discipline in his men.

 Two unidentified soldiers in Union uniforms drinking whiskey and playing cards.
(Above) Two unidentified soldiers in Union uniforms drinking whiskey and playing cards. United States, [Between 1861 and 1865].

Johnson’s accounts bring much light to aspects of camp and soldiering that were not often widely talked about. Although these events happened over 150 years ago, Johnson’s descriptions bring the soldiers’ actions and words to life and make their lives seem less distant.

For further information about Johnson’s diaries, see A&M 4538.

[1] “George Johnson,” 1870 United States Federal Census, Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio; [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009.

[2] Historical Data Systems, comp. U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2009.

[3] George Johnson, diary entry, July 4, 1862, A&M 4538, Civil War Diary Transcriptions and Related Material of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia,

[4] George Johnson, diary entry, February 3, 1862, A&M 4538, Civil War Diary Transcriptions and Related Material of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry; Steve A. Hawks, “11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment,” The Civil War in the East, accessed January 2023,

[5] George Johnson, diary entry, February 3, 1862, A&M 4538, Civil War Diary Transcriptions and Related Material of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

[6] Ibid.

[7] George Johnson, diary entry, August 25, 1862, A&M 4538, Civil War Diary Transcriptions and Related Material of Captain George W. Johnson, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Painting Flowers with Nature’s Colors

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
March 27th, 2023

Written by Erica Uszak

A portrait orientation panting of a bouquet of flowers in a small glass mason jar. The flowers are blue and white with yellow in the center. The background is a subtle green and yellow.
(Above) Arthur J. “Pete” Ballard, “Iris,” 2004, Oil on board. Arthur J. Ballard, Costume Artist and Curator, Papers, A&M 3869, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

West Virginian Arthur J. “Pete” Ballard (1931-2017) liked to paint with vivid colors, especially when it came to his many paintings of various flowers. His “Iris” painting shows his inclination towards bright colors, especially in his use of different shades of green. The white of the iris makes a sharp contrast to the vibrant green. The white petals, tinged in blue, indigo, and purple, draw the viewer into the life-like painting.

At a 2000 art exhibition, Pete Ballard remarked, “Occasionally, I’ve had my green backgrounds questioned,” as many of his paintings of flowers contain green settings. He found that other background colors never quite fit as well as he liked the color green. As he mulled over whether to use another color, he looked outside and saw green in everything alive, as “the hills were green, so were the trees; the grass was green, so were all the leaves. God used it. Why try to improve.”[1] Green was the color of life and energy, so Ballard decided to keep using green in his paintings, especially when it came to his paintings of flowers.

Pete Ballard used green to show the vibrant colors of nature and liked to paint the beauty and colorfulness of nature through his many flower paintings. As the weather (slowly) warms, one looks forward to the re-appearance of green and flowers as spring comes around the corner.

[1] Pete Ballard, “Memories and Mementos: A Collection of Paintings and Commentaries,” 2000, Box 2, “2000 Exhibition of My Paintings at Gertrude Smith House-Mt. Airy, NC.” Arthur J. Ballard, Costume Artist and Curator, Papers, A&M 3869, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Rediscovering the West Virginia Musicians Who Fought for Equal Suffrage

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
March 20th, 2023

Written by Greg Leatherman

An all-male marching band from Keyser, West Virginia physically defended suffragists during a historic parade at our nation’s capital in March 1913. Did they return to Washington for another round in 1917?

No history of the equal suffrage movement is complete without a description of the violence against women who paraded through Washington, D.C. in March 1913. At the local level, however, our understanding of this watershed event remains incomplete. Luckily, contemporaneous newspapers—like those digitized through the West Virginia Newspapers project—provide meaningful insight into how participants expressed suffrage activism before and after this historic parade.

This is especially true for activists from rural areas. For example, newly digitized resources prove that an all-male community band from Keyser, WV wielded musical instruments against the riotous mob that attacked the 1913 equal suffrage parade. Moreover, a mysterious photograph appears to indicate that they also participated in a second suffrage protest in 1917. This post offers recently discovered proof of the band’s first date with destiny, and compelling evidence of their second.

1913 Suffrage March Program Cover. Source: Library of Congress.

Descending on DC

Organized by Alice Paul and the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), the 1913 march on Washington was scheduled for March 3, i.e., the day before the first inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson. Excitement over this first national suffrage march on the capital had been building for months, but it exploded into a full media frenzy in the final three weeks as “General” Rosalie Gardiner Jones led a group of several hundred “suffrage hikers” on a long march out of New York City and toward Washington. From West Virginia alone, over 100 women from the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association, the Charleston Equal Suffrage League, the Wheeling Women’s Suffrage Association, and other organizations journeyed to Washington.

Rosalie Gardiner Jones (far left) and her suffrage hikers take a break during their long march. Source: Library of Congress.

The parade and demonstration included 5,000 women from various racial and social backgrounds, but it also included several hundred men. For example, the Oakland Republican reported that men belonging to a community band from Keyser, West Virginia would “take part in both the suffragette and inaugural parades.”

The band’s expenses were covered through the assistance of Jacob Gabriel Moody, a Keyser native who directed the National Guard’s 2nd Regiment Band of Washington, DC. They may have also received support from NAWSA, which sent letters to bandmasters across the nation inviting them to join the parade. This was a smart move. Not only did such bands add an air of celebration to the event, but they would end up on the frontlines of an historic clash.

Clearing a path through history

The afternoon of March 3 was warm and overcast, with little wind. As the parade started down Pennsylvania Avenue, the 153-member 2nd Regiment National Guard band played rousing suffrage songs. Though impressive, they were outnumbered by 100,000 onlookers, including scores of drunken rowdies angered by the demands of the suffragists. However, the 2nd Regiment was not alone. The College Equal Suffrage League of New York and the New York State Woman Suffrage Party brought smaller bands, while all-female musicians comprised the 23-member Missouri Ladies Military Band. As for the 26-man Keyser Municipal Band—aka McIlwee’s Band—they marched with the hikers led by “General” Jones.

The Missouri Ladies Military Band (aka Marysville Ladies Marching Band) was assigned a place near the front of the parade. They can be identified by the word “Maryville” emblazoned on their pennants.

Seeing the crowd swell, parade organizers asked the Missouri band to move forward, start playing, and clear a path. The band did so from a position immediately behind their horse-mounted Grand Marshal, Jenny May Burleson of Texas. Still, spectators shouted their disapproval—and the 575 police officers standing along the parade route were unable to keep the peace. After ten blocks of slow progress, the flimsy crowd barriers failed, and the turbulent pressure of what Burleson called a “horrible, howling mob” squeezed the parade to single-file formation.

Winsor McCay’s (c. 1866-1934) suffrage march line sketch appeared in the New York Evening Journal on March 4, 1913. Source: Library of Congress.

The surging mob tripped, grabbed, spat on, and shoved the female marchers. Signs and banners were seized and shredded. Flowers were plucked from coats, and flags were snatched and burned. Men taunted the marchers with insults such as “old hens,” while women of the West Virginia delegation were derided as dirty “snake hunters” and “coal diggers.”

It wasn’t just the women being attacked. One man who marched with Jones’ “suffrage hikers” struggled to keep the American flag he carried from being dragged through the dirt. Social status did not provide any advantage, either. When a congressman’s wife asked a police officer to clear a path, he shouted, “If my wife was where you are, I’d break her head!”

Despite this chaos, many marchers fought back. Inez Millholland, who rode a white horse near the front of the parade, claimed to have “slashed a drunken lout across the face with her riding crop…”

McIlwee’s Band also took a few shots. According to the Keyser Tribune, “The Missouri Girl Band, headed by Mrs. Champ Clark, was directly ahead of the Keyser Band, and the unruly crowd, taking advantage of the girls, succeeded in closing the line and marching was impossible. At this time the Keyser boys took things into their own hands and forced the mob back. Ginger’s big bass made a good battering ram and by strenuous work and the assistance of a squad of Boy Scouts, the band maintained a small space and kept the line moving until aid came from the cavalry troops. . .”

The parade of March 3, 1913 meets the mob. Note the woman at the far right being engulfed by the crowd. Source: Buck, George V., photographer, via Library of Congress.

The large man behind that “big bass” was tuba player Forrest Guy “Ginger” Davis, who also served as the Keyser Chief of Police. Davis was a lifelong law enforcement officer elected to three terms as the Sherriff of Mineral County (as a Democrat in 1932, 1940, and 1948). He also served more than thirty years as Keyser Chief of Police. Known for his energetic and tactful approach to policing, Davis was already in his second decade as the band’s business manager.

Alongside Davis fought Mineral County Sherriff, Charles Ervin “Mighty” Nethken, a former standout football player for the WVU Mountaineers who was renowned for his physical strength. Nethken won the Stephen B. Elkins gold medal as the Mountaineer’s best player after the 1895 football season and is listed as a guard on WVU’s official All-Time team. In the school’s Monticola yearbook, Nethken was compared to legendary strongman Eugen “Mighty” Sandow, and the nickname stuck even after he graduated. Like Davis, Mighty Nethken served as the Mineral County Sheriff three times (elected as a Democrat in 1904, 1912, and 1920). After his third term, he also served for 25 years as a judge on the WV Public Service Commission.

WVU football great Charles Ervin “Mighty” Nethken was known for his impressive strength—and his law degree. Source: The Monticola of West Virginia University (1896).

Between these imposing lawmen, a few members of the Keyser Fire Department, and several railroad employees, McIlwee’s Band had plenty of muscle to withstand the onslaught. They may also have benefitted from teamwork skills developed while playing together on the Keyer baseball team.

As for the Boy Scouts, around 1,500 were brought in to help the police. Averaging just 14-years in age, they were armed with long wood staves, which they used to hold back the crowd, then to form stretchers for carrying wounded women to ambulances that “came and went constantly for six hours.” Six squads of young men from the Maryland Agricultural College (now called the University of Maryland) also fought the mob. Nonetheless, at least 100 injured women were transported to the local Emergency Hospital.

In the days after the parade, national headlines contrasted the peaceful suffragists against the violent mob. More details emerged as a congressional committee investigated the failures of the Washington police. Among those who testified was “Mrs. Champ Clark,” i.e., the wife of the Speaker of the House. Most shockingly, the committee concluded that off-duty police officers encouraged attacks against the parading women.

As for McIlwee’s Band, the Keyser Tribune reported, “After the parade the band was publicly lauded by Miss Millholland, General Jones, and other leaders.”

The band also played concerts during the inaugural festivities. According to the Keyser Tribune, “In the Inaugural parade, the band headed the Civic Division and led the President’s own club, the Wilson Democratic League, from Trenton, NJ. This was certainly an honorary position and one that might have been given to a larger band.”

The famous Keyser band

Under Professor William H. “Will” McIlwee, who was in his second decade of leading the Keyser band, local musicians played at fairs, athletic events, church revivals, lectures, fundraisers, weddings, funerals, and more. In concert settings, they were called McIlwee’s Concert Orchestra, and their weekly summer performances from an electrified bandstand on Prep Hill in Keyser were attended by as many as 4,000 locals in 1914. They also toured on a limited basis. For example, the band entertained attendees at the 1915 reunion of the Grand Army of the Republic in Washington, as well as the 1916 reunion of Confederates at Franklin, WV.

As one admiring Keyserite wrote, “The Band is the greatest institution of life; when it plays all individual differences cease; we are no longer Republican or Democrats; Prohibitionists or Socialists; Methodists or Baptists; Catholics or Masons, we are humans of a common brotherhood, ready to put our shoulders to the common wheel and boost our town or our state or our country higher into the limelight of prestige and prosperity.”

A commitment to equality

After the 1913 parade violence, Mighty Nethken appears to have stopped performing with McIlwee’s Band. However, he continued to speak in support of equal suffrage. For example, when Keyser hosted a suffrage rally in July 1916, McIlwee’s Band played first, then Nethken introduced a young activist who’d marched with them in Washington parade.

As the Keyser Tribune described the scene, “Notwithstanding the rain Miss Eudora Ramsey… addressed a large crowed on Main street last Monday night on behalf of the equal suffrage amendment. McIlwee’s band put the people in a receptive mood, when Sheriff Nethken gallantly introduced the fair speaker …”

In September 1916, McIlwee’s Band performed at a suffrage picnic in Franklin, WV, which featured speeches from Dr. Harriet Jones, Dr. Duncan Lindly Sloan, and Alma B. Sasse. A month later, Canadian suffrage activist Nelly McClung spoke at the Keyser Music Hall after being introduced by Mighty Nethken and local activist Nancy C. “Nan” Hepburn.

When Democratic gubernatorial candidate John J. Cornwell campaigned at the Keyser Music Hall in October 1916, he also sought the support of women. For months, Cornwell publicly courted the support of the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association, and now that he was teaming with a band that marched with suffragists, advanced notice for his Keyser speech stated, “Ladies are especially invited. McIlwee’s Concert Band will furnish music.”

Cornwell even used the front page of the newspaper he owned, the Hampshire Review, to endorse Mighty Nethken in the Democratic primary for the second congressional district seat vacated by Nethkin’s political mentor, William Gay Junior” Brown, Jr., who died in March 1916. Congressman Brown’s widow was suffragist Izetta Jewel (1883-1878) who later became the first American woman to deliver a seconding speech for a major presidential nominee when she supported John W. Davis (1873-1955) of West Virginia. While campaigning for Davis at the Keyser Music Hall on the day before the 1924 election, she was joined by Nethken. Again, McIlwee’s Band provided the music.

Solving a photographic mystery

In January 1917, the Piedmont Herald reported, “The committee in charge of the inauguration ceremonies at Washington are corresponding with the famous McIlwee band of this place, with the view of securing them for the next inauguration This band made a great hit at the last inauguration in leading the suffrage parade.”

The invitation was also reported by the Mineral Daily News, which added, “Of course the Band will make a contract if there is nothing in the way. The Keyser band made such a hit last inauguration that the committee has given them first consideration.”

As March arrived, the Piedmont Herald confirmed, “Chief F.G. Davis has the arrangements nearly perfected for the McIlwee Concert Band to attend the inauguration…”

Nonetheless, unlike the band’s heroics before Woodrow Wilson’s first inauguration, their performance during his second one did not receive any post-event press coverage. The reasons for this omission were multifaced. First, the Keyser band was not listed in the official inaugural parade formation. This suggests they were in town for auxiliary events, such as another historic suffrage gathering. Second, there is evidence that their association with suffrage negatively impacted band members as political candidates.

To understand, consider that West Virginia voters narrowly elected Democrat John J. Cornwell as their new governor in 1916. After Cornwell’s election, hundreds of citizens from Mineral County braved a rainstorm to travel to his home in Romney where 1,500 heard him give a short address. Once there, they congratulated and serenaded the victorious Democrat, led again by McIlwee’s Concert Band and speaker, Mighty Nethken.

However, Nethkin was not a winner that year. He lost his congressional primary in a landslide. Moreover, in the general election, Ginger Davis lost his first run for Mineral County Sheriff. These stinging defeats marked the only political losses either man ever experienced, and it’s possible that their support of an equal suffrage measure that lost by a greater than 2 to 1 margin among Mineral County’s all-male electorate contributed to these losses.

Local support for the band also seemed to wane. After a smaller than anticipated crowd attended one of their concerts in 1916, Mineral Daily News editor William Henry Barger scolded his readers, stating, “If some cheap, ragtime and dance orchestra from out of town had given the concert, there is no doubt but that the auditorium would have been filled, but when an orchestra, probably the best in three states, and an orchestra that belongs to Keyser offers a concert of standard world-famous selections only a few come. Strange, isn’t it?”

As an organization led by Democrats, band members may have also been reluctant to publicize plans to protest a Democratic president’s opposition to nationwide equal suffrage, even after it was endorsed in the 1916 Democratic Party Platform. Nonetheless, evidence suggests this is exactly what they did.

As with the 1913 parade, the 1917 White House picket was planned by Alice Paul. It began on January 10—without McIlwee’s Band—but during the week preceding the inaugural celebration, organizers planned to increase public pressure through what they labelled, “The Siege of Jericho.” For this, they would need trumpets.

According to the National Woman’s Party (aka Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage), protestors intended to dramatize the sixth chapter of Joshua by marching around the White House for six days, “Then, on the seventh day—next Sunday to be exact—with their number swelled by thousands of women from all parts of the country, they shall compass the ‘city of Watchful Waiting’ seven times, and seven priestesses, bearing the suffrage ark, ‘shall blow with trumpets.’

“‘And it shall come to pass that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout and the walls of the city shall fall down flat.’”

However, the pre-inauguration picket did not draw nearly as many participants (or spectators) as the 1913 parade. For example, the West Virginia woman who intended to carry her state’s banner around the White House grounds for this siege did not make it and was replaced by a local.

A women’s suffrage activist speaks to her co-demonstrators during Grand Picket at the White House, March 4, 1917. Source: Photo by Harris and Ewing via Library of Congress.

There were three main reasons for lower numbers. First, the picket went on for months, so that only a portion of the total number protestors were active at any given time. Second, the “siege” elements were downplayed after March 1, when an intercepted German telegram made it clear to most Americans that the nation was headed for war. Third, a rainstorm pelted the women who did picket—and the two bands that joined them were thwarted by a continuous downpour that “silenced the drums” and “strangled” the horns.

As a result, the drenched marchers made only four trips around the White House grounds, and when the President and Mrs. Wilson crossed the picket line in their limousine, they refused to even look at the protestors.

In her memoir, suffrage activist Dorothy Stevens recalled, “It was a day of high wind and stinging, icy rain… when a thousand women, each wearing a banner, struggled against the gale to keep their banners erect. It is always impressive to see at a thousand people march, but the impression was imperishable when these thousand women marched in rain-soaked garments, hands bare, gloves roughly tourn by the sticky varnish from the banner poles and the streams of water running down the poles into the palms of their hands. It was a sight to impress even the most hardened spectator who had seen all the various forms of the suffrage agitation in Washington… Two bands whose men managed to continue their spirited music in the driving rain led the march…Vida Millholland led the procession carrying her sister’s last words, ‘Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”

The suffragists had their own band led by Lavinia Dock. Doris Stevens played the snare drum; and before her death in November 1916, Inez Milholland played accordion. In her memoir, however, Stevens specifically referenced two bands of men who played during the White House picket of Sunday, March 4, 1917.

Part of the suffrage picket outside the White House on March 4, 1917. Although not identified in digital sources, new evidence suggests the musicians belonged to a band from Keyser, WV. Source: Records of the National Woman’s Party, Library of Congress.

One photograph taken on the day of the March 4, 1917 picket shows an unnamed band marching around the executive mansion while women carry flags and banners behind them. The rainy scene includes policemen in raincoats, a drummer with his own coat draped over his instrument, and a large tuba player. To those familiar with the famous Keyser band, the tuba player resembles Ginger Davis, and the drummer is a ringer for Professor McIlwee.

A comparison against a known photo of Prof. McIlwee (along with newspaper references) suggests that his band participated in the March 1917 suffrage picket. On the left is the bandleader from 1917. On the right is a photo of Prof. McIlwee taken in 1926. In the author’s opinion, other known photos Prof. McIlwee strengthen this comparison. Sources: (L) Cropped version of photo cited above and (R) cropped version of Professor William H. McIlwee, Lurena McIlwee Feagans Collection, item 1682-1b thl, Stewart J. Bell Archives, Handley Regional Library, Winchester, VA.
A similar comparison between a known photo of F.G. “Ginger” Davis against the tuba player in the 1917 picket strengthens the theory that a band from Keyser made multiple appearances with prominent suffrage activists. Sources: (L) cropped family photo found on and (R) cropped version of photo cited above.

Although this photographic evidence is not conclusive, it strongly suggests that music at the “Great Picket” of March 4, 1917 was provided by McIlwee’s Band. If so, this second appearance in support of suffrage activists says even more about the band’s convictions than their heroics during the 1913 parade. One might even conclude that a second appearance places the all-male Keyser band in the vanguard of grassroots support for suffrage.


The perseverance of marching suffragists against opponents at all levels of society—from politicians to drunken rowdies—gained them numerous allies. For example, national headlines about violence at the 1913 equal suffrage parade convinced many that the suffrage movement would not be easily derailed, while photographs of women arrested for “obstructing traffic” during the 1917 White House picket campaign, including some from West Virginia, did much to convince the public that activist women were on the right side of history.

Although progress toward equal suffrage slowed during World War I, Governor Cornwell called a special session for March 1920, during which the WV state legislature ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Six months later—after 36 hard fought states ratified the historic amendment— a woman’s right to vote became federal law. As described above, McIlwee’s Band played a supporting role in winning that right, and their brassy defense of equal suffrage deserves remembrance as part of West Virginia’s feminist heritage.

Blog contributed by Greg Leatherman. Greg is a Keyser native now residing in Florida.


  1. Future researchers interested in this topic may benefit from examining relevant records from NAWSA, the National Woman’s Party, and WV suffrage organizations. Further photographic corroboration may also be possible using sources available through the WVU Library Systems, the Library of Congress, and family records.
  2. The band roster as of September 1914 was: Bandleader, W.H. McIlwee; Manager, F.G. “Ginger” Davis (bass); President, Samuel T. Merryman (Eb clarinet); Treasurer, Charles W. Bell (baritone); Leo C. Wilcox (trombone); Alfred W.”Bill” Merryman (trombone); Albert F. Rice/Ries (alto); Henry W. Clark (alto); Leslie O. Brotemarkle (alto), Emmitt C. Kolkhorst (alto), Ira L. Ravenscraft (first cornet), Floyd M. Mills (solo cornet), John W. Johnston (solo cornet), Dennis “Dennie” T. Rasche (solo clarinet), Walter G. Kephart (3rd Bb clarinet), Arthur W. Cross (2nd bf clarinet), Lloyd L. Mills (2nd Bb clarinet), Leonard E. “Eugene” Cross (1st Bb clarinet), Lawrence E. Kolkhorst (solo Bb clarinet), Frank R. Troy (flute and piccolo), Walter S. Decker (baritone saxophone), Clatus L. Shaffenaker (tenor sax), Harry E. Hannas (Bb bass), Henry W. “Warren” Kolkhorst (solo bass), Robert E. Rice (snare drum), Felty E. “Ervin” Shelly (snare drum), and Charles H. “Harry” Davis (bass drum).
  3. McIlwee’s band was not the only musical outlet for these men. For example, by 1916, saxophonist Walter S. Decker found a national publisher for his musical compositions. Another member from a later iteration of the band, Howard S. Pyles, became a longtime orchestral conductor for the Columbia Broadcasting Company.
  4. A few bandmembers were not from Mineral County, but neighboring Garrett County, Maryland, where they played in the Mountain City Band of Oakland under the visiting instruction of Prof. McIlwee. On occasion, Keyser band members (e.g., Davis, Decker, and Schaffenaker) also supported the Mountain City Band, as they did when joining them to entertain a Democratic political meeting at Oakland in 1911 Compared to Mineral County, Garrett County was a suffrage hotspot. As a result of this relationship, before the 1917 picket, the McIlwee’s Keyser Band added talented cornet player, Roy F.T. Hinebaugh as a permanent member. Hinebaugh—along with Charles I. Liller, Calvin H. Echard, Wallace “Wall” E. Brown—also marched with the Keyser band in the 1913 parade as guest musicians from the Mt. City Band. This was a semi-regular occurrence, as these same men (and others) also temporarily joined what the Oakland Republican called the “famous Keyser band” in 1910, 1915, 1917, etc. Some switched between the two bands, as needed. For example, Dennis T. Rasche, was listed as an official member of the Keyser band in 1914, yet he was again a visiting musician from the Mt. City Band in 1915.
  5. Doris Stevens provided a list of songs played during the 1917 picket: ‘Forward Be Our Watchword;’ ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic;’ ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers;’ ‘The Pilgrim’s Chorus,’ from Tannhäuser; ‘The Coronation March; from Le prophète; the ‘Russian National Hymn;’ and ‘The Marseillaise.”


This research was made possible thanks to digital resources provided by the West Virginia Newspapers site hosted by Potomac State College of West Virginia University.

  • Pittsburgh Press. 28 Oct 1894, p. 13; 21 Mar 1895, p. 1; 03 Jan 1896, p. 4;
  • Wheeling Daily Register. 08 Jan 1896, p. 1;
  • Mineral Daily News/Mineral Daily News-Tribune. 26 Jul 1912, p. 2; 07 Aug 1912, p. 1; 10 Aug 1912, p. 1;15 May 1913, p. 1; 16 May 1913, p. 1; 27 May 1913, p. 1; 28 May 1913, p. 1; 01 Jul 1913, p. 1; 08 Jul 1913, p. 1; 04 Nov 1913, p. 1; 13 Apr 1914, p. 1; 07 May 1914, p. 1; 01 Jul 1914, p. 1; 09 Sep 1914, p. 1; 18 Sep 1914, p. 1; 19 Sep 1914, pg. 1; 21 Jun 1915, p. 1; 02 Mar 1916, p. 2; 22 Mar 1916, p. 2; 04 Apr 1916, p. 3; 22 May 1916, p. 2; 03 Jun 1916, p. 4; 05 Jun 1916, p. 2; 14 Jul 1916, p. 1; 15 Aug 1916, p. 1; 19 Sep 1916, p. 1; 18 Oct 1916, p. 4; 21 Oct 1916, p. 01; 23 Oct 1916, p. 03; 24 Oct 1916, p. 1; 25 Oct 1916, p. 1; 26 Oct 1916, p. 1; 23 Nov 1916, p. 2; 03 Jan 1917, p. 1; 23 Jan 1917, p. 1; 24 May 1917, p. 4; 04 Jun 1917, p. 1; 26 Jun 1917, p. 2; 25 Oct 1917, p. 1; 29 Nov 1918, p. 2; 02 May 1920, p. 2; 01 Nov 1920, p. 1; 03 Nov 1920, p. 2; 02 Jan 1924, p. 1; 04 Apr 1924, p. 1; 07 Mar 1925, p. 2; 27 Nov 1925, p. 1; 02 Sep 1932, p. 1; 11 Feb 1936, p. 1; 24 Jun 1936, p. 1; 07 Jun 1955, p. 2; 03 Apr 2003, p. 1;
  • Tampa Tribune. 29 Dec 1912, p. 8; 05 Mar 1917, p. 3;
  • Dunkirk Evening Observer. 28 Feb 1913, p. 1;
  • Piedmont Herald. 07 Mar 1913, p. 7; 11 Dec 1914, p. 10; 20 Oct 1916, p. 5; 02 Mar 1917, p. 9; 14 Jul 1916, p. 1; 21 Jul 1916, p. 5; 02 Mar 1917, p. 9; 02 Aug 1918, p. 5; 31 Oct 1924, p. 1; 03 Nov 1938, p. 8; 10 Nov 1932, p. 1; 10 Aug 1939, p. 6;
  • Keyser Tribune. 20 Oct 1911, p. 2; 22 Nov 1912, p. 2; 20 Dec 1912; 07 Feb 1913, p. 4, 5; 07 Mar 1913, pp.1, 5; 14 Mar 1913, p. 2; 21 Mar 1913, p. 1; 11 Jul 1913, p. 1; 12 Dec 1913, p. 1; 26 Dec 1913, p. 1; 25 Sep 1914, p. 2; 11 Dec 1914, p. 1; 12 Nov 1915, p. 2; 14 Apr 1916, p. 4; 26 May 1916, p. 2; 21 Jul 1916, p. 2; 22 Sep 1916, p. 2; 20 Oct 1916, p. 2;
  • Washington Post. 05 Mar 1913, p. 3; 18 Mar 1913, p. 2; 04 Mar 1917, p. 6; 05 Mar 1917, p. 2;
  • Fairmont West Virginian. 25 Mar 1913, p. 1; 10 Sep 1917, p. 4;
  • Kenosha Evening News. 26 Dec 1912, p. 4;
  • Washington Herald. 27 Dec 1912, p. 4;27 Feb 1913., pp. 1-2; 04 Mar 1913, pp. 1, 4; 06 Mar 1917, p. 1;
  • Buffalo Sunday Morning News. 19 Jan 1913, p. 18;
  • Pittsburgh Daily Post. 04 Mar 1913, p. 1; 03 Aug 1916, pg. 1;
  • Baltimore Sun. 04 Mar 1913, p. 2; 11 Mar 1913, p. 1; 23 May 1918, p. 3;
  • Baltimore Evening Sun. 04 Mar 1913, pp. 3, 6.
  • Wheeling Intelligencer. 04 Mar 1913, pp. 1, 8; 05 Mar 1917, p. 4;
  • St. Louis Post Dispatch. 04 Mar 1913, p. 6.
  • Nashville Tennessean. 04 Mar 1913, p. 1;
  • Alexandrian Gazette. 04 Mar 1913, p. 1;
  • Clarksburg Daily Telegram. 04 Mar 1913, pp. 1, 9;
  • Moberly Weekly Monitor. 04 Mar 1913. p. 1;
  • Houston Post. 07 Mar 1913, p. 1;
  • Washington Times. 10 Mar 1913, p. 7; 13 Mar 1913, p. 1; 16 Apr 1913, pp. 1-2; 02 Mar 1917, p. 5; 05 Mar 1917, p. 10;
  • Bluefield Daily Telegraph. 11 Mar 1913, p. 1;
  • Washington Evening Star. 06 Mar 1913, pp. 1,2; 17 Mar 1913, p. 1;25 Feb 1917, p. 17; 04 Mar 1917, pp. 4, 14,15; 05 Mar 1917, p. 2; 06 Mar 1917, p. 15;
  • Saskatoon Daily Star. 26 Mar 1913, p. 4;
  • Oakland Republican. 21 Jul 1910, p. 5; 23 Feb 1911, p. 5; 06 Mar 1913, p. 5; 10 Jun 1915, p. 4; 24 May 1917, p. 1; 11 Oct 1917, p. 4; 18 Dec 1924, p. 5; 02 Mar 1933, p. 3;
  • Hampshire Review. 24 May 1916, p. 1; 31 May 1916, p. 1; 15 Nov 1916, p. 1; 22 Nov 1916, p. 1; 25 Feb 1920, p. 1;
  • Shepherdstown Register. 19 Oct 1916, p. 4; 19 Oct 1916, p. 4;
  • Clarksburg Exponent. 24 Oct 1917, p. 4;
  • Preston County Journal. 10 Dec 1914, p. 1; 30 Sep 1920, p. 5;
  • Cumberland News. 06 Jan 1953, p. 7;
  • Mountain Echo. 30 Oct 1952, p. 3; 28 Jun 1956, p. 4; 15 May 1958, p. 3;
  • Stevens, Doris (2008). Jailed for Freedom: The Story of the Militant American Suffragist Movement, pp. 92-100. Lakeside Press, R.R. Donnelly & Sons, USA.
  • “Boy Scouts at the 1913 Suffrage Parade,” National Park Service. (accessed 02/12/2023)/;
  • “West Virginia and the 19th Amendment,” National Park Service. (accessed 02/15/2023);
  • “What the Boy Scouts Did at the Inauguration,” Boys Life. April 1913, pp. 2-4;
  • 1916 Democratic Party Platform. (accessed 03/29/2020);
  • Effland, Anne Wallace (1983). The Woman Suffrage Movement in West Virginia, 1867-1920. Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 7361. (accessed 03/03/2023);
  • Monticola of West Virginia University, 1896, pp. 124, 132, 139, 201, 202, 205. A.L. Swift and Co., Chicago; and
  • Walton, Mary (2010). “Alice Paul, Brief life of pioneering suffragist (1855-1977),” Harvard Magazine, Nov-Dec 1910. (accessed 02/22/2023); and
  • “Eudora Woolfolk Ramsay Richardson,” Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Library of Virginia. (accessed 03/02/2023.

A Day in the Life of a Digital Archivist: Partying Like It’s 1999

Posted by Admin.
February 27th, 2023

Written by Elizabeth James, the Digital Archivist at the West Virginia & Regional History Center.  

What kind of items come to mind when you think of archives or archival materials? What about digital archives? When it comes to digital archival materials, many people will think about scanned copies of physical materials like books or maybe even web pages saved to a platform like the Internet Archive. But there are many more formats in WVU’s archives: from 3.5 inch floppy disks to Zip disks to CDs, contemporary archives contain all of these material types and more. These media formats contain what are known as born-digital materials, or materials that were originally created digitally.  

A v;close up image of a black floppy disk with the label "This is Files."
Sometimes the labels on items are a little bit less than helpful. 

In this post, I’ll take you through the journey of one seemingly familiar format through the typical procedures used in the WVRHC to remove content from the original media and make born-digital archival materials accessible.  

Let’s meet our protagonist for the day: the compact disc, or CD, a format first introduced to the commercial market for music in 1982. Though CDs are still common, when it comes to any media formats you need the following two things in order to access the content:  

  1. Have equipment to read the item—for instance, if you have a 3.5 inch floppy disk, you need a 3.5 inch floppy disk drive.  
  1. Have software to read the files saved on the item—if you have a Word Perfect file from 1992, that file is designed to display correctly using the 1992 Word Perfect program. 

For CDs, external USB drives and internal disc drives are still accessible. I have an internal and external disc drive I like to use with CDs and DVDs I’m processing. Since we have the equipment to read the item, let’s get started! This example uses a CD found in the International Association for Identification Collection at the West Virginia & Regional History Center. 

Though I couldn’t tell until I inserted the disc, this CD is a data CD which means that the CD contains non-audio content. To access the files, I need to open the CD on my computer using Windows Explorer rather than having any audio or music files play automatically. On the left you can see the view if you use this approach. However, CDs can have multiple file systems underneath what you see in this basic view. On the right is the view you see when using IsoBuster, a software that supports a more digital forensics style approach to examining files. In this view, you can see multiple file systems that each tell your computer’s operating system how to access the files on the CD. Multiple file systems may contain different files, so we want to make sure we check to see that we grab all of the unique files.  

A screenshot of file windows in IsoBuster and Windows Explorer.
Comparison of visible files in IsoBuster and Windows Explorer.

Luckily, these two file systems contain the same files, so we’re safe to use a software like Teracopy that will copy these materials off the CD without modifying any of the files or file metadata, a term archives and libraries use to talk about information that describes the files. After all, we can’t party like it’s 1999 if we unintentionally edit the files and change the “Date Modified” to 2023. By using Teracopy, which retains the original file metadata and ensures that we don’t accidentally edit the file along the way, we can assure researchers that what they’re accessing in the archive is as close to what the original creator saved to the CD as possible. 

Now we can move on to step two: determining if we have the software to access the files. Upon looking at this content, I discovered the CD was a front for something unexpected: a floppy disk! The files on the CD were a copy of materials found on a floppy disk in the collection. All of the files on the CD are dated to 1999, which is conveniently the title of a catchy Prince song and the inspiration for this article title. We can see that the files are Microsoft Word-based, albeit Word 97, which means that opening the files in a modern version of Word should be fine.  

A contents file list of word docs.
Content of CD in Windows Explorer. 

But what’s on the disc? Well, it’s an unpublished history of identification and the International Association of Identification by Carey Chapman. We have several versions of this manuscript across both printed materials and floppy disks, which means that any researcher can examine these versions to gain a sense of what Chapman’s writing process was like. You can see some of the floppy disks where this content came from below. If the number of disks seems like a lot, remember that floppy disks can only hold 1.44MB of information. To give you a sense of scale: a 2GB thumb drive holds 1,422 times as much content as a single floppy disk. 

8 Floppy disks, 5 blue and 3 red, lined up on a table.
Original Carey Chapman floppy disks. All of the content on these floppy disks are on the CD. 

Let’s up the difficulty level and go to :

An image reading "no file systems and/or files found."
Russian disk

Time taken: 20~ minutes 

If I wanted to conclusively say I had tried every avenue, I would use something like a Kryoflux that reads every available bit, even floppy disks with issues. While I might use this approach in the future, this floppy disk seemingly contains a translation of a document and the content of the disk isn’t vital to understanding the collection.  

Getting content off this CD was comparatively easy. For other materials, I’ve had to do everything from emulate MS-DOS to see the contents of a program, trawl the internet for 5.25-inch floppy disk drives, to doing research on what type of computers and operating systems the United States Senate was using in the 1990s. Suffice to say, digital archives work takes many forms. Though the digital materials in this collection are still being processed, you can reach out to Elizabeth James, Digital Archivist, at if you have any questions about accessing this item or anything I’ve written about here.