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Why Archives Matter: A View From the West Virginia and Regional History Center

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 7th, 2016

By Danielle Emerling and Jane LaBarbara, Assistant Curators at the West Virginia & Regional History Center. Reposted from Archiving West Virginia.

October is American Archives Month, and for the first time, archives in our state are collaborating to celebrate “West Virginia Archives Month.” Archives from around the Mountain State will contribute blog posts to this site, host events, and invite everyone to visit and experience the rich history and culture of our state.

West Virginia Archives Month is a perfect time to reflect on what archivists do and why it matters. As the building blocks of history, archives are a vital part of our lives and our democracy. At a recent event, Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame succinctly described the importance of archives when he said, “Without these documents, without these gems and genuine artifacts, there’s no story to tell.”  Read the rest of this entry »

WVRHC releases digital photographs from the career of Senator Rockefeller

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 6th, 2016

West Virginia University Libraries’ West Virginia & Regional History Center has released more than 1,500 digital photographs from the Senator John D. Rockefeller IV archives. Available from the Libraries’ website, the photographs document many significant moments from Rockefeller’s 30 years in the U.S. Senate.

The images, taken by the Senate Photographic Studio, begin with the Senator’s first swearing-in ceremony in January 1985 and help tell the story of his many contributions in the U.S. Congress. The photographs capture the Senator through the years speaking at press events, presiding over committee hearings, and attending functions on Capitol Hill. He was photographed with policy leaders, business directors, and many of his congressional colleagues.

 Vice President George H. W. Bush administering oath to Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller. Rockefeller is joined by his wife, Sharon, Senator Robert C. Byrd and former Senator Jennings Randolph, whom he succeeded. Senate Photographic Studio, January 15, 1985.

Vice President George H. W. Bush administering oath to Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller. Rockefeller is joined by his wife, Sharon, Senator Robert C. Byrd and former Senator Jennings Randolph, whom he succeeded. Senate Photographic Studio, January 15, 1985.

Read the rest of this entry »

You Want A Coat? Give Me Apple Butter!: A Bartering Tailor in Early Morgantown

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 3rd, 2016

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

The West Virginia and Regional History Center recently acquired the daybook, or daily accounting log, for Morgantown tailor Sanford Pickenpaugh, who according to Ancestry, was born in Monongalia County on 30 October 1811, and passed away on 27 June 1898.  He married Aneliza Ramsey (1818-1899).  Dating from ca. 1838-1840, the daybook includes the names of the early residents of Morgantown, many of whom were descended from the earliest pioneers.  Read the rest of this entry »

Mourning McKinley

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 13th, 2016

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian.

Portrait of President William McKinley

William McKinley (1843 – 1901), the twenty-fifth president, was the third U.S. President to be assassinated, after Lincoln and Garfield.  He died this month, September 14, 1901, six days after a disgruntled anarchist shot him while he shook hands with the public at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.  Read the rest of this entry »

Preserving the History of West Virginia Flour Sacks

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 6th, 2016

Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator for Archives and Manuscripts, and Anna Schein, Associate Curator for Printed Ephemera, WVRHC.

During colonial times, agricultural products were stored and transported in heavy wooden barrels or boxes. By the mid-1850s, cotton bags became the preferred method of transporting flour, sugar, seed, animal feed, and fertilizer. Especially in rural communities, these bags, commonly known as feed sacks, were reused to make clothing, curtains, sheets, towels, quilts and more. (To see a fantastic example of a feed sack dress, take a look at this dress made for the 1959 Cotton Bag Sewing Contest, preserved by the National Museum of American History.) Company logos printed on the bags with water soluble inks could be removed by soaking the bags in a combination of lye, soap, and bleaching agents. By the end of the 1950s, almost all of the products previously packaged in cotton bags were sold in paper or plastic sacks which were cheaper to produce and considered more sanitary.

The S. George Company in Wellsburg, West Virginia printed company logos on paper flour barrel labels and paper flour sacks by using metal and wood engravings.  Amazingly, many of these engravings survive today and are preserved in the GramLee Collection, curated at WVU’s College of Creative Arts.  Some S. George Company flour sack proofs made for West Virginia mills and businesses are now in the WVRHC’s A&M 3868.

 

Flour sack proof for Mountain State Brand Flour, showing farm buildings and agricultural equipment

Cropped image of an S. George Company flour sack proof for a Moundsville, WV brand (from A&M 3868)

  Read the rest of this entry »

"West Virginia" by Honaker and Jay

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 29th, 2016

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

 

West Virginia’s scenic grandeur
Is a boon to every eye;
For her mountains, tall commanding
Shoulder out the very sky.

Peaceful vales and virgin forests
Rolling hills and canyons grand;
Nature’s wealth and beauty garnered
In my lovely, native land.

 

The chorus of the song “West Virginia” by T. J. Honaker and Harry Jay sings the praises of the natural beauty of the Mountain State.  The score for this ode to West Virginia is part of the WVRHC’s Sheet Music collection, A&M 723.

 

Cover of sheet music booklet for song West Virginia

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome Back: A Look Back at Fall Semesters Past at WVU

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 18th, 2016

Students walking on WVU campus

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian.

Move In Day
The Old Fashioned Way with Horse and Buggy on Falling Run Road, 1895

Horse and Buggy on Falling Run Road (dirt), 1895

Read the rest of this entry »

Shoofly Pie and West Virginia

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 8th, 2016

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

I was not born in West Virginia, and as a non-native, sometimes I make mistakes.  One recent mistake was believing the internet when it told me that shoofly pie is West Virginia’s state dessert.  I thought that would be a good idea for a blog post, maybe comparing a few shoofly pie recipes and commenting on its history in relation to West Virginia.  Then, I learned that there is a wet-bottom and dry-bottom version of this pie—which was more popular in West Virginia, I wondered? So I started asking my coworkers, and learned one very important thing: almost none of the people in my department had shoofly pie before.  I resolved to make one, but I still needed to learn more about West Virginia desserts, and about shoofly pie.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Growing Morgantown 50 Years Ago

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 3rd, 2016

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director & Digital Projects and Outreach Archivist, WVRHC.

These days most folks who visit Morgantown after being away for a while can’t help but comment on the tremendous growth of the University and the town.  Fifty years ago, in the mid-1960s, Morgantown was also experiencing a growth spurt.  Expansion of the Medical and Evansdale campuses prompted the need for additional roads and enabled new commercial areas to develop.

The new University Hospital and Medical Center were both operational by 1960.  Construction of the Engineering and Agricultural Sciences buildings was completed just a few years later.  The first two Towers dormitories opened in 1965.  The area needed a new route to connect it all together.   The following photographs show the development of Patteson Drive from 1959 to 1966.  Read the rest of this entry »

Historical Photographs of Amusement Park Discovered

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 25th, 2016

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

 

In reviewing a recently acquired collection of photographs at the History Center, images from a long gone amusement park from southwestern Pennsylvania were discovered.  Known as “Oakford,” it was established in 1901 by a trolley company with the intent to attract riders during times when traffic would otherwise be slow — the evenings and weekends.  Since this was a typical business strategy of trolley companies across the nation during the early 20th century, these amusement parks came to be known as “trolley parks.”  Business slowed at Oakford during the depression years of the 1930s, and with the rise of the automobile, the park closed before World War II.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Exploits of Andrew Summers Rowan and his Message to Garcia

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 19th, 2016

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian.

 

One hundred and eighteen years ago, the name Andrew Summers Rowan (1857-1943), a native of Union, West Virginia, was on everybody’s lips.  A decorated war veteran, Rowan was widely recognized for accomplishing the impossible during the Spanish-American War, the same war that brought Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders to public prominence, paving the way for Roosevelt’s future presidency.

 

Seemingly larger than life, Rowan’s great military achievement received mythological status in his day.  The oft repeated tale begins with President McKinley’s request for a soldier capable of tracking down General Calixto Garcia, the leader of insurgents in Cuba’s civil war with Spain.  McKinley’s goal was to find a way to communicate to Garcia that the United States planned to enter the war on the side of Cuba.  An important message to be sure and one that Garcia would find most welcome.  But in order to accomplish this treacherous mission, McKinley needed a man who could face all threats and successfully carry out this important task.  Rowan was that man.   Read the rest of this entry »

Jerry West Memorabilia

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 11th, 2016

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

Group photo of Bob Huggins, Rod Thorn, President Gee, Jerry West, and Senator Joe Manchin

Bob Huggins, Rod Thorn, President Gee, Jerry West, and Senator Joe Manchin
(Willie Akers, not pictured, also spoke)

Our West Virginia Day event on June 20 was a big success!  We had a great group of speakers, we shared the state’s birthday cake, we opened our physical collection of Jerry West materials to researchers, debuted our Jerry West digital collection, and opened our exhibit of Jerry West memorabilia.  However, we know that not everyone who wanted to come could join us that day, and many fans from afar may not be able to visit the exhibit at all.  Staff at the WVRHC will make a slide presentation of our physical exhibit, as we’ve done the past few years, but that won’t be ready until the fall semester.  I put together a little preview for Jerry West and WVRHC fans far away.  Enjoy!   Read the rest of this entry »

Thomas and Walter Biscoe and their 1884 Allegheny Valley Tour

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 6th, 2016

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director & Digital Projects and Outreach Archivist, WVRHC.

In 1884, Thomas Dwight Biscoe and his brother Walter Stanley Biscoe headed out on a trip across West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, traveling by horse and buggy and camping out as needed. With Thomas’ wife and daughter in tow, they captured the sights and scenery of the trip by taking over 200 photographs along the way.  The unique images document the region and battlefield sites just a little less than twenty years after the end of the Civil War.  Marietta College in Ohio owns the original glass plate negatives.  Copies from the plates can be viewed in in West Virginia History OnView, the West Virginia & Regional History Center’s online photographs database.   Read the rest of this entry »

Wikipedia of the 18th Century: Historically Significant Encyclopedia by Diderot at WVU Libraries

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 27th, 2016

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

Before Wikipedia, encyclopedias were the go-to resource for convenient access to information, as David Werth points out in a 2013 National Public Radio piece regarding the 300th anniversary of Denis Diderot’s birth.  Why Diderot?  Because he was responsible for creating one of the world’s great encyclopedias.  Titled Encyclopedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts, this magnum opus took over 20 years (ca. 1751-1772) to complete, involved over 140 contributors, and resulted in 21 volumes of text comprising over 70,000 articles.  Of the several thousand sets of volumes that were sold, one has found a home in the Rare Books collection at West Virginia University Libraries.

 

 Decorative plate and title page of Diderot's Encyclopedia

First Volume (“Tome Premier”) of the Diderot Encyclopedia, 1751
(from collection of WVU Libraries)

Read the rest of this entry »

Jerry West and Clair Bee, "MR. BASKETBALL"

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 20th, 2016

NBA Logo and Basketball

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian.

When it comes to sports, West Virginia has been home to many great athletes.  Certainly no other state can lay claim to not one but two of the greatest basketball figures of all time, and both of them have earned the title,  “Mr. Basketball.”  Jerry West and Clair Bee have both held that honor.  Read the rest of this entry »

Records of 18th Century Pioneer Discovered: Documents Tell Story of William Haymond

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 13th, 2016

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

 

Records were recently discovered at the West Virginia and Regional History Center that document one of the prominent pioneers of western Virginia in the 18th century, William Haymond (1740-1821).  Since the threads of so many significant historical events pass through the episodes of his life, his story merits attention.
Read the rest of this entry »

Ralph John World War II Letters

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 6th, 2016

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director & Digital Projects and Outreach Archivist, WVRHC.

One week ago, on Memorial Day, we honored those who died in service to our country and today, June 6, we mark the 72nd anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, D-Day, the turning point for the Allies in World War II.  The Ralph John World War II Letters (A&M 3600) held by the West Virginia & Regional History Center provide insight into the military life of a soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure our peace and freedom.

Portrait of Ralph John

Read the rest of this entry »

Camouflage: Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, by Abbot Handerson Thayer

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 23rd, 2016

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian.

 

Can you find the peacock?

 

Peacock camouflaged among green leaves in a forest

 

We might think that camouflage has been around forever.  The ubiquitous mottling of colors, usually in shades of greens, browns, blacks and yellows, was designed to mimic elements of the natural world, such as sunlight and shadow on leaves, whether on the tree or the forest floor.  So in some ways, camouflaging coloration has always been around.  But the promotion of concealing coloration or camouflage as a tool for human use was proposed much more recently.   Read the rest of this entry »

Finding Money in the Archives

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 16th, 2016

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

It’s no secret that archivists love to find stashes of great things, the hidden and often unexpected gems of a collection, like a letter from a famous person mixed in with other correspondence, a broadside advertising a concert by a musician who was famous 100 years ago, an account of a famous battle written into a soldier’s journal, or hair from the tail of T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s horse (yes, we actually have that).  You can imagine my excitement when I opened a wooden lap desk to find a trove of letters, report cards, and money.  As I gently separated the colorful paper currency, you can imagine my disappointment when I saw the paper currency marked 25 cents and thought that the money I found was fake.   Read the rest of this entry »

"Rubber Neck Suffragettes," Women’s Suffrage, and Controversy at West Virginia’s 1913 Golden Jubilee

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 11th, 2016

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director & Digital Projects and Outreach Archivist, WVRHC.

Recently I was looking at the West Virginia & Regional History Center’s Printed Ephemera collection when I came across a leaflet for West Virginia’s Golden Jubilee Celebration in Wheeling in 1913.  That year West Virginians were commemorating 50 years of being a state – not unlike the sesquicentennial activities that marked our 150th birthday three years ago.

 

First page of leaflet advertising the WV Semi-Centennial Celebration

The front cover of the advertising leaflet.

 

In 1913, festivities were planned in cities across the state to mark the grand occasion. The two-page Wheeling advertisement caught my eye because of the imagery and especially the slogan, “Roll Around a Week in a Square Town.”  It boasts that the Golden Jubilee in Wheeling will be the “Greatest Celebration Ever Held in the Ohio Valley.”  As I looked it over, I noticed that the last item in the schedule of events on the second page advertised “Burlesque and Fantastic Parades” and in all caps, “DON’T MISS THE RUBBER NECK SUFFRAGETTES.”

 

Second page of leaflet advertising the schedule of events of the WV Semi-Centennial Celebration

The reverse side which includes the schedule of events.

 

I was intrigued.  What was a “rubber neck suffragette?”  I thought maybe it was a musical group or some kind of slang term that I had not heard of before.  I did a quick Google search.  The top result linked to a news item.

 

News article about WV suffragettes planning to boycot the WV Semi-Centennial Celebration due to rubber-neck suffragettes parade

Article in the Boston Evening Transcript, May 21, 1913

 

I had stumbled upon a controversy.  Suffragists were outraged about a proposed burlesque “rubber neck suffragette” parade and threatened a boycott of the Semi-Centennial festivities.  A news service had picked up the report and it made it into a Boston paper.  To find out more about the story, I went to the local Wheeling newspapers on microfilm at the Center.  I found one article that directly addressed the situation.

 

News article with headline "'Rubberneck Parade' Bitterly Denounced"

Wheeling Daily News May 19, 1913

 

Noted West Virginia suffragette Dr. Harriet B. Jones declared the parade “an insult to every woman in the state.”  A large women’s suffrage parade had taken place in Washington, D.C. only a month before.  This event appeared to lampoon it. Women’s rights advocates in Wheeling were angry about the reflection of their “cause and their sex.”  Suffragists demanded that the parade be immediately removed from the program.

 

Portrait of Dr. Harriet B. Jones

Dr. Harriet B. Jones, first woman licensed to practice medicine in West Virginia in 1885 and the first woman to be elected to the House of Delegates in 1924.  Jones was a noted leader of the women’s rights movement, serving as an officer in the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association.

 

The unknown author of the Daily News article doubted the intention of the parade was to demean womankind and stated that the “native chivalry of true West Virginians is too deep-rooted to permit of such a travesty on the fair sex and I am sure that it will not permit such a parade to be allowed to take place.”  A working girls parade would take place instead.

 

And thus, it appears that the “rubber neck” parade was scrapped. No further mentions were found in Wheeling newspapers.  The WVRHC holds the official program of the Semi-Centennial as well as other souvenir books from the celebration, but none lists such an activity.  Perhaps this was a small victory for West Virginia suffragists, but they still faced judgement in the local newspapers.

 

A cartoon on the front page of the Wheeling Sunday Register, May 25, 1913 shows a “sweet girl graduate” being pulled by a suffragette away from love, marriage, and happiness towards a career and the unknown.

A cartoon on the front page of the Wheeling Sunday Register, May 25, 1913 shows a “sweet girl graduate” being pulled by a suffragette away from love, marriage, and happiness towards a career and the unknown.

 

The day following the publication of “The Ways to Go” cartoon, the Wheeling Register printed a letter to the editor from “A Suffragist Tho’ Married” who objected to the cartoon saying it was “direct slap at all suffragists and decidedly in error.” She asks “are all married women happy?” and “do all you men insist that marriage and suffrage cannot walk hand in hand?”  The letter write also notes that the Register had been progressive, but not on this issue.  She implores them to change.

 

Cartoon in which a suffragette embraces Cupid, and a letter to the editor in the Wheeling Register

In the cartoon accompanying the letter to the editor in the Wheeling Register, May 26, 1913, the suffragette embraces Cupid.

 

Changing the anti-suffrage mentality was a state and nationwide challenge. 1913 had begun as an encouraging year for West Virginia suffragists when the House of Delegates passed a state women’s suffrage amendment.  Unfortunately, the amendment did not have the support in the State Senate and so it went no further. The same amendment returned and passed both houses in 1915 but failed as a statewide constitutional referendum with two-thirds of the fifty-five counties rejecting the amendment.  Finally, in 1920 the West Virginia legislature ratified the national constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote.  The “Rubber Neck Suffragettes” controversy turned out to be only a small battle in the long and hard fought crusade for women’s suffrage.

 

Please note the WVRHC Printed Ephemera collection includes pamphlets, brochures, isolated periodical issues, news clippings, event announcements and programs, and advertisements.  The materials were primarily published from the late 19th century to the present.  The Center is selectively digitizing items from the collection and building an online index.

 

The Center also has an extensive collection of West Virginia Newspapers. Much is available on microfilm at the Center, but portions of the collection have been digitized and made available through the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America project.