Ask A Librarian

Skiing in West Virginia

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
January 31st, 2017

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

With the arrival of winter weather, many are heading to the slopes to enjoy one of West Virginia’s most popular outdoor activities – skiing. The ski industry is a major part of the state’s economy that contributes over $250 million dollars annually and supplies more than 5000 jobs.

The first downhill ski area in West Virginia (also the first commercial ski area south of the Mason-Dixon line) came after members of the Washington Ski Club installed a rope tow on Weiss Knob in Canaan Valley, Tucker County in 1953.  This area is now part of the Canaan Valley State Park ski complex that opened in 1971.  Read the rest of this entry »

200,000 Pages of West Virginia Newspapers Digitized

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
January 23rd, 2017

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

The West Virginia and Regional History Center, in collaboration with the Library of Virginia, has been digitizing its newspaper collection for the Library of Congress website Chronicling America.  This 200,000 page collection of West Virginia newspapers is easily accessible through character string searching, and therefore offers extraordinary access to a treasure trove of primary historical resource material.  More specifically, this collection covers the period 1836-1922; the titles currently available are listed on the website, including mainly papers from Charles Town, Clarksburg, Fairmont, and Wheeling.  This digital collection will take a quantum leap forward in August 2017 when an additional 100,000 pages go online!

 

Having recently encountered on the internet news of the plans to restore the historic Robinson Grand Theater located in Clarksburg, West Virginia (which is scheduled to open in Spring 2018), I thought I would test the search engine by looking up the early history of the theater.  I was immediately rewarded with a wealth of easily accessible information regarding events connected with the topic.  In reviewing this snapshot of early entertainment history at the Robinson Grand we sometimes also encounter broader themes of national history that were concerning Americans at that time.

 

Among the results of my research, I found a front page report regarding a public reception occurring on February 6, the day before the theater opened on February 7:  Read the rest of this entry »

The African American Press in West Virginia

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
January 12th, 2017

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian

Two African-American Newsboys and Unidentified man stand outside C. N Chilins Newsstand

C.N. Chilins News Stand, Fairmont, W. V. 1904/06. Two African-American Newsboys and Unidentified man stand outside C. N Chilins, located on Madison Ave.. Fairmont, W. V., eventually (relocated) to the first floor of Watson Hotel.

Beset with a fluctuating subscriber base, the constant need for funds, and personnel shortages, African American newspapers in West Virginia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries struggled to survive.  Many were short lived, publishing issues for a couple of years at best.  Some papers found themselves shutting down production for weeks or even months at a time, waiting for subscribers and advertisers to provide enough funding to begin publishing again.  Read the rest of this entry »

This Day in History: Farmers’ Week

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
January 5th, 2017

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

While searching for a blog post topic, I came across a mention of Farmers’ Week, January 5-9, 1920.  I had never heard of Farmers’ Week before, so I combed through the WVRHC’s printed ephemera, photos, and our vast collection of university publications till I found out about this great educational program from WVU’s College of Agriculture.

Farmers Week Exhibit with signage and tables full of produce

Farmers Week Exhibit

Read the rest of this entry »

Recent Acquisition: Papers of Rural School Teacher Pearl Cuppett, 1915-1918

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 20th, 2016

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

The West Virginia and Regional History Center recently acquired the papers of Preston County school teacher Pearl Cuppett (catalog number A&M 4196).  As a record of her activity in the schools of Pine Run (1915-1916), Victory (1916-1917), and Mountain View (1917-1918), they provide a snapshot of rural West Virginia school life.  The following will sample some of the material in this collection.  Read the rest of this entry »

Portraits of Appalachia: Stereotypical Images of the Mountain Man on Local Color Literature

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 19th, 2016

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian. This post originally appeared on the Books Tell You Why blog.

How is stereotype developed and how is it spread? Historically, books have played a role as purveyors of stereotype, both intentionally and unintentionally. It’s easy to think of a book’s text as promoting stereotypical points of view, but the book’s cover design is just as influential.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, book cover design was an unwitting influence on the development of the Appalachian stereotype. The artistic portraits of Appalachia and Appalachians found on the covers of books widely dispersed to reading audiences across the nation had a lasting impact on the stereotypical image of Appalachia.

Cover of book The Devil's Brigade showing a man holding a smoking gun

Much like the travel writing of earlier times, local color literature, a popular style in its day, was designed to provide the reading public with intimate glimpses into specific regions across the nation. Harriet Beecher Stowe and Sarah Orne Jewett wrote of the regional flavor of New England. Mark Twain and Bret Harte captured the excitement of the West, and writers like John Fox, Jr. and Mary Noailles Murfree, who wrote under the pen name Charles Egbert Craddock, were among the many authors who wrote of the Appalachian region.

In the case of Appalachian local color literature, the decorated book cover and local color writing converged at a specific point in time that was crucial to the formation of Appalachian stereotypes. The decorative cover was an important element of the book, serving to reinforce the image of Appalachia as portrayed by local colorists. In this regard, the book’s image was as important as the image provided by the printed text in the development of the stereotypical image of Appalachia and Appalachians.

When we look at the book cover in partnership with the text, we begin to understand the important role book binding design played in the development of the stereotypes and misconceptions of the Appalachian region and its people. Designed as a marketing tool, the book cover served as an attractive means to draw the prospective purchaser to the book. As such, the book’s cover became the controlling influence. This influence was exerted from the very beginning, with the publishers’ continual desire over the course of a century to make the book attractive and appealing to consumers.

This integration of image and Appalachia on the cover of books began with the reconstruction of Appalachia as the American frontier in the mid nineteenth century. During this time period, as America became more urban, there was a ready market for books that offered tales of the frontier featuring rugged backwoodsmen like Daniel Boone. It was a time of looking back and longing for the frontier spirit.

Cover of book Our Western Border showing a man holding a gun leaning out over a cliff

The great frontier hero, Daniel Boone, on the cover of McKnight’s Our Western Border, shown above, is surrounded by a complex wilderness. In this design Boone carefully leans over a mountain cliff, looking down to the river below, watching Indians canoeing upstream. He is pictured as a competent woodsman and explorer, living life free, without restraint, in verdant forests filled with danger. It was a time idealized by the book.

But soon, book cover designs on Appalachian local color literature would change as they began to mirror the prevailing attitudes about Appalachians and the Appalachian region, changing over time as attitudes changed. The idea of the mountaineer as backwoods philosopher/woodsman evolved as America became more urbanized while Appalachia’s development was seen as static.

Cover of book Red-Head showing a man with a gun, crouching

The rugged mountaineer on the cover of Lloyd’s Red Head, (1903) above, crouches with his rifle at the ready.  Is he expecting trouble? Is he lying in wait for an ambush?  To know the answer to these questions we must read the book. The cover draws us in, but no longer is the mountain man shown as master of the wilderness. His depiction has changed to one of an outlaw, rather than a pioneer. The design of the book cover is the first tool used to draw us in, to convey some idea of the story itself, and it provides clues to the pervasive ideas of turn of the century culture and attitudes.

As the Appalachian stereotype changed and evolved, portrayals of the mountain man often fell into three distinct and recognizable categories: hunting, feuding, and moonshining. These concepts are, in essence, three images that were repeatedly used on the covers of books and it is these images that helped to develop the stereotypical portrait of the Appalachian mountain man we know today.

Hunting

The mountain man, although depicted here as a hunter, is not shown in command of the wilderness, but as a hunter/gatherer/provider. The mountaineer on this cover returns at the end of the day with a full sack, a gun over his shoulder, and his dog by his side (below).

Cover of book The Men of the Mountains showing a man holding a gun and a sack, walking with a dog

Feuding

The rising smoke of a recently fired rifle is the key to these images, below. To the world outside of Appalachia the feud is now recognized as the only form of mountain justice.

Cover of book Stories of Kentucky Feuds showing a man holding a smoking gun

Cover of book The Devil's Brigade showing a man holding a smoking gun

Moonshining

Ever on the lookout, the mountain man is seen protecting his still from advancing revenuers, below.

Cover_Camp

Preserving the Historical Record of Appalachia

As our tastes in literature have changed over time, these books, once prominent best sellers, have fallen into disrepair through heavy use followed by long periods of neglect. In libraries, most have been stripped of their original bindings and rebound. The few that remain are prime candidates for preservation.

By collecting, examining and preserving these books, bound with images that reflect nineteenth and early twentieth century ideas on a specific region and its people, we can view the development of stereotype through the progressive history of idea.

The cover image serves as a gateway to the text, and it is the first indication of the book’s contents. As a marketing tool, the cover design was a compelling way to attract customers and provide a glimpse of the book’s contents. It is the combined image, the book’s text as well as its binding, which served to promote an idea and make it a real and lasting concept.

These books, once commonly found in every home and library are now fragile resources over 100 years old. Preserving these books is important as representations of the historical record of Appalachia in material and pop culture and as evidence of cultural viewpoints that linger to the present day.

Editor’s Note [from Books Tell You Why]: Many thanks to Stewart Plein for her insightful post and for sharing it with the Books Tell You Why community. Below, please find a list of the books shown above (in order of appearance), as well as links to a journal article published by Ms. Plein which she used as reference for this post. If you have questions or thoughts about this topic, leave her a comment! 

  • Spivak, John Louis. The Devil’s Brigade; The Story of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud.  NY: Brewer and Warren, Inc., 1930.
  • McKnight, Charles. Our Western Border, in Early Pioneer Days: containing the true account of western frontier life and struggle in the most heroic age of America . . . Chicago: Educational Company, 1902.
  • Lloyd, John Uri. Red Head.  Illustrated by Reginald B Birch.  NY: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1903.
  • Spaulding, Arthur Whitefield. The Men of the Mountains; the Story of the Southern Mountaineer and His Kin of the Piedmont; with an account of some of the agencies of progress among them. Nashville, Tenn., Atlanta, Ga. Southern Pub. Association, 1915.
  • Coates, Harold Wilson. Stories of Kentucky Feuds. Knoxville, Tenn., Holmes-Darst Coal Corp., 1942.
  • Eggleston, George Cary. Camp Venture, A Story of the Virginia MountainsAdventures Among the Moonshiners.  Boston: Lothrop Pub. Co., 1901.

Journal of Appalachian Studies article: “Portraits of Appalachia: The Identification of Stereotype in Publishers’ Bookbindings, 1850 – 1915.”  Fall 2009, Vol. 15 Issue 1/2, p 99-115.  Available from EbscoHost: http://tinyurl.com/portraitsofappalachia. Available on Academia.edu: https://wvu.academia.edu/StewartPlein/Publications.

 

USS West Virginia: The Phoenix of Pearl Harbor

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 7th, 2016

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

Seventy five years ago today, on December 7, 1941, a date that lives on in infamy, the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked by the Japanese.  Over 2400 US servicemen were killed and close to 1200 were injured.  Cruisers, destroyers, and a significant number of US aircraft were destroyed. Eight US battleships were damaged including West Virginia’s name sake, the USS West Virginia.  Despite the devastating attack, West Virginia was repaired and sent back into duty, earning the moniker, “The Phoenix of Pearl Harbor.”

 

The USS West Virginia ca. 1940

The USS West Virginia ca. 1940

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Leonardo da Vinci Notebooks and Mirror Writing: Two notebook replicas available to examine in the Rare Book Room

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 28th, 2016

Blog post by Beth Toren, WVU Libraries’ Media, Religious Studies, and Research Services Librarian

Early scientific journals were the private notebooks of scientists. Luxurious replicas of two notebooks by 15th Century Italian artist, mathematician, inventor and writer Leonardo da Vinci are available to examine in the WVU Libraries Rare Book Room. Leonardo wrote in Italian and using mirrored writing, writing backwards from right to left and illustrating with drawings. The notebooks contain his observations and brainstorming on multiple subjects in text, diagrams, and illustrations.

The Codice Leicester and Codice del Volo in their protective boxes:

Replicas of The Codice Leicester and Codice del Volo in their protective boxes

Read the rest of this entry »

Up in Smoke: The Fascinating Story of a West Virginia Newspaper, The Volcano Lubricator

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 15th, 2016

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian.

Clipping of the Volcano Lubricator newspaper masthead

 

In 1857, William Cooper Stiles, Jr. (1839-1896) arrived in Wood County with plans to search for suitable oil fields for his new enterprise.  The sandy soil of Wood County seemed to Stiles to be perfectly suited for his plans.  Stiles purchased 2,000 acres in Wood County in 1864, just as the Civil War was drawing to a close, and formed the Volcano Oil and Coal Company.  Stiles commenced drilling on the undeveloped land and then began to lay out the town of Volcano.  His future employees and their families would need residences and businesses with access to markets.  At its peak, the population of Volcano reached just short of 4,000 residents.  Read the rest of this entry »

Rush Dew Holt, Sr. and His Fight for the Senate

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 7th, 2016

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

I thought Rush Dew Holt, Sr. would be a fitting blog post subject, considering our upcoming elections.  (Remember to vote on November 8!)  Holt is generally credited with being the youngest popularly elected senator in the U.S. Senate.  However, that does not mean he was the youngest senator—depending on what you read, he is cited as being fourth or fifth youngest.  These gentlemen actually joined the Senate under the radar, since they all broke the rule that Senators must be 30 years old (U.S. Constitution, article 1, section 3, clause 3).

Holt bond with an image of Rush D. Holt in the center. Around the picture text reading "In the purchase of this bond I pledge myself to labor with all diligence to elect Honorable Rush D. Holt to the United States Senate."

A piece of Holt campaign ephemera—he looks so young!

Read the rest of this entry »

WVU Libraries hosts Senator Byrd traveling exhibit

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
November 3rd, 2016

From highways to buildings and even a giant radio astronomy telescope, U. S. Sen. Robert. C. Byrd left his mark on West Virginia. The eloquent Byrd, the only U. S. Senator to work his way through law school while in office, often held his pocket Constitution high as he argued for it, not the emotion of the day, to rule Senate votes.

Byrd died in 2010 while still in office. A traveling exhibit chronicling his life opens November 10 in the West Virginia University Libraries’ Rockefeller Gallery. A reception, to be held from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., will include remarks from Dr. Raymond Smock, director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education, as well as David A. Corbin, former aide to Senator Byrd and author of The Last Great Senator.

The Byrd Traveling Exhibit on display in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the U.S. Senate, photo provided by the Byrd Center.

The Byrd Traveling Exhibit on display in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the U.S. Senate, photo provided by the Byrd Center.

Read the rest of this entry »

WVU Libraries joins HathiTrust

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
November 1st, 2016

hathi logo

West Virginia University students, faculty and staff will now have access to an array of unique resources from more than 110 academic institutions from around the globe through an agreement between WVU Libraries and HathiTrust.

“We are thrilled to be part of HathiTrust and bring its rich benefits to our University community,” Dean of Libraries Jon Cawthorne said. “We will have digital access to a collection of amazing digital titles from leading universities across the nation and beyond.”

HathiTrust is a partnership of academic and research libraries collaborating to preserve and provide digital access their institutions special collections. The group draws its name from the Hindi word for elephant, hathi, symbolic of the memory, wisdom and strength evoked by the animal, as well as the huge undertaking of gathering prized resources from research libraries around the world.

Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating 50 Years of Star Trek: The Jay Chattaway Papers at the WVRHC

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 31st, 2016

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

On September 7, 2016, fans across the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the influential sci-fi television series, Star Trek.  Several staff members of the West Virginia & Regional History Center happen to be devoted admirers of the show (i.e., Trekkies) and we appreciate any connection between Star Trek and our work.  Recently, Curator Stewart Plein blogged about the newly acquired Star Trek miniature book that is part of the Center’s Rare Book Collection.  The miniature is definitely fascinating, but it is not the only Star Trek material at the West Virginia & Regional History Center.  Read the rest of this entry »

Harvest Time: A Gathering of Historical Photographs

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 24th, 2016

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

 

October is the primary season of harvest.  The photograph collection at the West Virginia and Regional History Center includes many historical images that document this seasonal activity around the state.

 

Men and women in a field of rows of small shrubs, harvesting something

Harvesting a field in Monongalia County, undated.
(Photo 041729 from West Virginia History OnView.)  Read the rest of this entry »

Veterans Outreach Program invites student veterans to mindfulness luncheon on Friday

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 18th, 2016

The WVU Libraries’ Veterans Outreach Program (WVUL-VOP) is hosting a luncheon program for student veterans on Friday at noon in the Downtown Campus Library, Room 2036.

The talk, entitled “Mindfulness 101,” is geared toward student veterans and will provide an introduction to mindfulness and offer personal applications for the practice. The guest speaker is a physician and veteran. Dr. Michael Brumage, MD, MPH, FACP, is the executive director/health officer for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. He served in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years.

November is Mindful Mountaineers Month at WVU. This program will be a preview of the special events that are coming up each day in the month ahead. For more information, contact Carroll W. Wilkinson, director of Strategic Library Initiatives at WVU Libraries, at cwilkins@wvu.edu or 304-293-0308.

Celebrating 50 Years of Star Trek: The Original Series

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 14th, 2016

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian.

Star Trek ship USS Enterprise

This year, 2016, marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic science fiction TV show, Star Trek, which debuted in 1966.  Today, following an unprecedented series of spin offs, the first Star Trek is referred to as TOS or The Original Series.  To celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary I would like to share with you a new acquisition to the Rare Book Room in the West Virginia and Regional History Center, a miniature book titled Star Trek: A Television Series, 1966-69.

Front cover of miniature book titled Star Trek: A Television Series, 1966-69. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Evansdale Library to host patent and trademark training sessions

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
September 20th, 2016

Representatives from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will visit West Virginia University on Thursday, Sept. 29, and Friday, Sept. 30, to provide training on patents and trademarks.

WVU Libraries and the Health Sciences Innovation Center will co-sponsor the program on Sept. 29, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., at the Evansdale Library. Sessions will include an introduction to intellectual property, hands-on training for patent and trademark searches, and a panel discussion on services available at WVU for inventors.

Read the rest of this entry »