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The Voting Rights Act Turns 55

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 6th, 2020

By Danielle Emerling, WVRHC

Fifty-five years ago today, on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, meant to remove racial discrimination in voting. The Act was a landmark for the civil rights movement. However, its passage was met with debate, and its legacy continues to be challenged. The Act’s path through Congress is the topic of an online exhibition from the WVRHC archives, For the Dignity of Man and the Destiny of Democracy: The Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Voting Rights Act is rooted in the Fifteenth Constitutional Amendment. Enacted in 1870, it established that the right to vote could not be denied on the basis of race. Yet African Americans, particularly those residing in southern states, continued to face significant obstacles to voting. These included bureaucratic restrictions, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, as well as intimidation and physical violence.

Political cartoon from "The Advocate" newspaper, depicting an African American man being whipped, with text such as "Jim Crow Laws", "Disenfranchisement", etc.
The Advocate. (Charleston, W. Va.), October 13, 1910. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. West Virginia & Regional History Center, Library of Congress

Little was done at the federal level to enforce Reconstruction Era laws, including the Fifteenth Amendment, until the mid-twentieth century. Even after the passage of civil rights bills, however, discriminatory practices depressed voter registration rates for African Americans living in the South. When civil rights activists, including recently deceased Congressman John Lewis, organized a voting rights campaign in Alabama in 1965, it culminated in violence on March 7 when Alabama state police brutally attacked peaceful marchers in Selma. The event galvanized an outpouring of support for a bill protecting the right to vote for all Americans. 

The President addressed a joint session of Congress on March 15, 1965, calling on them to pass a voting rights bill. He opened his speech explaining that he spoke “for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.”

A letter to U.S. Representative Arch Moore in support of the Civil Rights Act
Letter from Wheeling, W.Va., constituent in support of a voting rights bill, Governor Arch A. Moore Jr. papers, West Virginia & Regional History Center

The Administration sent a proposed bill to Congress two days later, and though it had strong bipartisan support, Congress spent several months debating various aspects of the legislation. Traditionally, most powers to register voters and protect the right to vote have fallen to state and local governments. Congress needed to decide whether the Federal Government should shift this balance of power. Members spent several months debating various aspects of the legislation, including poll taxes and automatic triggers. Though they were banned in federal elections, many states levied poll taxes as a prerequisite to voter registration.  Another aspect of the bill automatically “triggered” certain actions, such as outlawing literacy tests and requiring states or counties where discriminatory practices were in place to seek federal “preclearance” before establishing new voting laws.

In the Senate, a 24-day filibuster of the bill ensued. Southern senators believed the bill was unconstitutional and punitive to the South. Democrats and Republicans signed a petition for a cloture motion, and four days later, the Senate approved debate-limiting cloture, ending the filibuster. This was only the second time in its history, and the second time in two years, that the Senate had stopped debate in order to vote on a civil rights bill.

In the House, Republicans proposed a substitute bill, known as the Ford-McCulloch bill, which removed the automatic triggers. Civil rights leaders expressed strong opposition to the Ford-McCulloch bill. On July 9, 1965, the House rejected the substitute bill and passed one with automatic triggers and a ban on poll taxes in state and local elections.

Western Union telegram from Martin Luther King Jr. to U.S. Representative Arch Moore, urging the defeat of the McCulloch Amendment
Telegram from Martin Luther King Jr., Governor Arch A. Moore Jr. papers, West Virginia & Regional History Center

After a conference committee resolved the differences, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, finally fulfilling the promise of the Fifteenth Amendment.  It was tremendously successful. The disparity between white and black voting registration rates dropped from nearly 30 percentage points in the early 1960s to just 8 percentage points a decade later.

Congress has reauthorized the Act multiple times, most recently in 2006.  In 2013, however, the Supreme Court overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. In Shelby County v. Holder, the Court invalidated the “coverage formula,” which determined the states and localities required to seek preclearance for changes in voting rules that could affect minorities. Following the ruling, several states began implementing photo ID laws.

For the Dignity of Man and the Destiny of Democracy: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a digital version of an exhibit that was on display in the WVU Downtown Campus Library’s Rockefeller Gallery. Materials in the exhibit come from the Arch A. Moore Jr. congressional papers, WVRHC; the WVRHC newspaper collection; and the Center for Legislative Archives, NARA, featured in the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress’ The Great Society Congress exhibit.

Learning to Read a Book: An Account of a Rare Book Room Assistantship

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 3rd, 2020

Blog post by Jessica Kambara, LTAII/Rare Book Room assistant, WVRHC.

Woman between rows of bookshelves, standing on stool

During my sophomore year of college, I attended a class led by the curator of WVU’s rare book room, Stewart Plein, on Shakespeare’s Folios. Upon entering the rare book room, I thought I’d like to work there. The Rare Book room had a clean yet cozy atmosphere, and exuded an aura of history and prestige. Halfway through the class, after getting to leaf through the large folio pages of a book hundreds of years old, I was sure I wanted to work there. By the end, I had gotten a job. All it took was asking if there were any work opportunities available, and Stewart set me up with a capstone project and took me under her wing as her assistant.

The first position I ever took in the Rare Book room was effectively that of an intern; however, I was working for course credit and so had to treat it like a capstone project. My objectives were to educate myself on Rare Book room handling and terminology; to compile a portfolio of my inventory work; to create a display; and to present what I had learned. The work itself was quite straightforward. I had to sort through boxes of donated books, create an inventory, and do additional research to determine the historical and monetary value of the book. Stewart was there to guide me through the process, and often steered me if I was stumped. My most important task was to determine the value of a book—essentially data analysis.

Book value is determined by a number of factors: condition, rarity, edition, age, author, decoration, monetary value, historical significance, and educational potential. Often value was obvious—a rare, highly decorative book by a significant author in good condition was very valuable. However, there were gems within the seemingly insignificant. I took an interest in books produced during war, particularly World War II. I looked for patterns and shifts in patterns. For example, cheaply produced children’s book series are a dime a dozen—sometimes literally—but if you look at the quality and narrative structures you will find cultural shifts. Take the Buddy Series, a string of children’s books that ran for 16 years. For the most part, the majority of the series has little value; however, there is much to be learned from the editions published around World War II. Paper quality dips significantly during the war, an effect of wartime rationing; furthermore, the typical narratives of light-hearted adventures designed to teach good morals shift to tales of can collecting for the war effort and reporting your suspicious neighbor in Buddy and the Victory Club. This gives a better understanding of American wartime mentality, and how it manifested in children’s media. After all, the children taught to report their neighbors by the book, Buddy and the Victory Club, in 1943, were the same ones who grew up to partake in the paranoia of the Cold War and the second Red Scare.

Cover of book "Buddy and the Victory Club"
Garis, Howard R. Buddy and the Victory Club or a Boy and a Salvage Campaign. Cupples & Leon Company: New York. 1943.
Image source: West Virginia and Regional History Center

A book’s value can be found not only in its content and material, but also in how it recontextualizes historical periods. You can deduce a lot from what was the cultural norm by examining popular books. It is important to factor in that authors popular during their time might not have survived the modern day. Take Gene Stratton Porter—an author who still has her following, but is not nearly as recognizable as American authors like Jack London or F. Scott Fitzgerald despite being their peer. There is much to praise Gene Stratton-Porter for; she was a conservation activist, a successful American businesswoman, and a bestselling author. At the same time, there is also much to be learned from the startlingly normalized racism against people of Japanese origins in her book Her Father’s Daughter published in 1921. The casualness of how Stratton-Porter’s characters, who are meant to be likable and relatable, discriminate against Japanese people is completely normal. To many, the Japanese Concentration camps of 1942-1946, seem like an unbelievable failure of American morality. However, when contextualized with the reading material that the previous generation grew up with, the camps seem more like an inevitable product of long-standing xenophobia (in addition to being an unbelievable failure of American morality).

Cover of book "Her Father's Daughter"
Stratton-Porter, Gene. Her Father’s Daughter. New York: Grosset and Dunlap. 1921.
Image Source: West Virginia and Regional History Center

Often, historical importance can be found not just in narrative content or material—sometimes it can be in the publishers’ catalogue, which are often found at the end of the story at the back of the book. An otherwise insignificant book can tell you a lot if it also includes the publishers’ catalogue of available books. Compile enough book catalogues, and you can track shifts in advertisements that reflect cultural changes. For example, prior to World War I and II, book catalogues advertised children books as a gender-neutral category—both boys and girls could enjoy books such as The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland.  However, as war took over media, book advertisements split into boy books and girl books. Book about war were in high demand, but seen as too violent for girls, and so they were specifically advertised to boys. True to Newton’s third law, girl books went in an opposite direction and focused on things like light-hearted countryside adventures.

By the end of my semester capstone, I had compiled a detailed twenty-page portfolio of my key finds. After learning to read books in a new way and finalizing my portfolio, I then had to transform that information into a real-world tool for education. This is commonly done via displays. As part of my capstone, I set up a library exhibit on war influenced books which was displayed in the WVU library. For my final capstone requirement, I gave a public presentation on what I had learned and the significance of my project and wrote a paper on my overall work.

After I had completed my course credit, I continued to work for Stewart into my junior year as a work-study student. My tasks shifted from an educational approach to a work approach, and in a way was much more simplified while also more complicated. I was no longer expected to produce a gradable project, but I also had to do more diverse work.

My first assignment taught me the importance of organization and job creation—as poor organization had created a summer job for me. A series of unfortunate developments had left important microfilms mixed in a sea of hundreds of other microfilms (please note, this organizational job was not done by WVU staff, but by an outside source). This was the first and last time I worked with the WVU depository—or the depo. The depo is a storage site. It has a small office, and a large warehouse with a towering celling filled with high shelves full of boxes; the highest of which required an aerial platform to reach. It was similar to what you might expect in a factory warehouse, only with better temperature and humidity control. With the aid of depository staff to assist me with heavy lifting, I sorted through dozens and dozens of heavy boxes of newspaper film. Although tedious, there are lessons in blunders and this work certainty taught me the importance of organization, being conscientious of how your work can impact others, and instilled a greater appreciation for the behind the scenes work of acquiring research material.

Exterior view of brick building with the sign "Libraries' Depository"

After that assignment, my work took a return to form as I came back to the Rare Book room to compile inventories of collections—including my largest inventory of 311 Lewis and Clark related items. I also took on the occasional bit of side work, like boxing books or applying clear Brodart book cover sleeves, used to preserve dust jackets, or scanning book covers.

My next big project would be creating a Shakespeare Inventory of Rare Book room books and cross-referencing my inventory against the WVU library database to oversee updates and check for errors. Over the years, WVU’s Rare Book room has compiled one of the most impressive collections of Shakespeare’s work and related content, including an incredibly rare set of Shakespeare’s folios. The time had come when Stewart needed this impressive collection to be inventoried and I set about it. 

Each item added to the Rare Book room was naturally recorded in the WVU Library catalog database; however, shifting books and understandable cataloging mistakes can cause discrepancies. And so, to make sure our database was accurate and up to date, I began to cross-reference all the physical copies of the Shakespeare books in the Rare Book room against all the Shakespeare books in the database. At times, locating books was like being on an Easter egg hunt as things like size and value could result in atypical shelving.  When I was near the end of my inventorying, I experienced a valuable but painful lesson in backing up information. A mishap resulted in my inventory being deleted and I had to restart. In the end, I created a thirty-page inventory with 183 items.

For a nice change of pace, I also got to work with art and ventured into the libraries central storage area to make an inventory of a collection of donated artworks.

Woman standing at vertical shelves containing artwork

In the midst of working on another large inventory, I had to stop due to the minor issue of graduation, no longer qualifying as a work-study student. That is where I thought my work with WVU and Stewart would end, when I was again called upon to tackle another collection. This time I was hired as a temporary librarian assistant and tasked with organizing a vulnerable collection.

Many issues can be the unfortunate bane of a bookkeeper’s existence. Books are more sensitive than people think, and if humidity and temperature cannot be properly regulated, books may suffer, making them vulnerable to a variety of issues that can cause deterioration such as increased brittleness, mold, and insects, that can invade and spread rapidly between tightly wedged books. Certain precautions, such as masks and gloves, are a must as exposure can lead you to developing a lower tolerance to these issues in addition to other ailments.

In this case, a recently donated collection had problems. Some books were still good, and some were not. Book material is a big factor. I was working with older cloth bound books and leather—paperbacks and a lot of newer books were unaffected. I quickly went about organizing the collection, relocating fragile books to separate shelves and sorting them according to their level of vulnerability. 

Unfortunately, another type of bio-hazardous spread impacted my work halfway through sorting. Covid-19 resulted in WVU closing the libraries, and with that I began a life of remote work.

Remote work was a strange change of pace from my hands-on work. I could not inventory what I could not see, and so I took the opportunity to educate myself on book history, book care, and other topics that had long interested me. I edited audio files, wrote blog posts, and did beta work for Stewart. Now, at the close of my temp assignment, I’m completing my final task—writing a reflection.

I’m very grateful to all the WVU library staff who aided me in my work, and especially grateful to Stewart Plein for providing me with the opportunity to return again and again.

Dr. Emory Kemp: The Book Collector

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 27th, 2020

Blog post by Dr. Connie S. Evans, Ph.D., M.L.I.S., WVRHC AmeriCorps worker

As many people are aware, Dr. Emory Kemp was an esteemed expert in the fields of civil engineering, industrial archaeology, and the history of technology, so it will come as no surprise that he was also an avid collector of books on a wide variety of topics.  In his oral interviews with Dr. Barb Howe, he discussed at length how he developed his collection from a very young age, and how the volumes he accrued help shape his future interests and endeavors. 

Born in 1931, Dr. Kemp made the decision to be baptized into the Methodist faith at the age of ten and noted that this event sparked his curiosity to study “many things.”  As well, “the clouds of war were gathering…in Europe” in 1941, and Dr. Kemp became intrigued by the British Royal Navy and its ships, and, consequently, the general history of Britain. This interest led him to purchase his first book (which he retained throughout his life): H.M.S. His Majestie’s Ships and Their Forebears by Cecil King, which he ordered from the British Information Services in Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.

Cover of the book "HMS: His Majesty's Ships and their Forbears"
(photo in public domain)

Dr. Kemp had already been following the fortunes of the war in Europe since 1939, and developed an interest in how the hostilities had evolved from the time of the German Weimar Republic and the rise of Adolf Hitler. He was also intrigued by the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s attempt to head off the conflict at the Munich Conference with his famous “Peace in Our Time” speech.  From this interest sprang a desire to become more familiar with British history in general, and Dr. Kemp began collecting books in this genre as he was able to do so.   

A precocious learner who had skipped a grade in primary school, Dr. Kemp entered a five-year program at University of Illinois Laboratory High School (otherwise known as Uni High) under the auspices of the University of Illinois in 1943 at the age of eleven; he went on to graduate from the school in 1948.  While there, he became part of the school’s War Discussion Group which met once a week, and recalled that he “gave a couple of lectures on [his] understanding of the war itself,” no doubt as an outgrowth of his voracious reading on the subject. However, as Dr. Kemp self-deprecatingly noted, the lectures were never recorded so he was unable to quote from them. 

As a young man, Dr. Kemp did not have a great deal of money at his disposal to purchase the books he wanted, and routinely devoted his weekly allowance and the sums he earned from babysitting his younger brother to their acquisition.  His wish to buy more books for his collection led him to take a summer job at the Dick Burwash Farm near Champaign, Illinois, where he was hired to de-tassel corn.   

The process of de-tasseling corn was aimed at increasing the production of hybrid corn, and it required stripping the tassels from corn by hand, in alternate rows, to prevent self-pollination.  Dr. Kemp recalled that the work was difficult, as it was hot in the fields and the corn itself caused rashes on exposed skin.  Both boys and girls were hired for the work, and paid equally, although, as Dr. Kemp ruefully noted, the girls were allowed to work from a platform attached to a tractor, while the boys walked the fields.   

Dr. Kemp observed that he was never “very much interested in clothes or toys,” so he “haunted bookstores,” and purchased a variety of tomes with his summer earnings, many of which eventually found their way into the collection that he donated to the West Virginia and Regional History Center at the West Virginia University Libraries in October, 2016.   

While a student at Uni High, Dr. Kemp met faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who proved to be instrumental in the expansion of his book collection.  Arthur Davis, an engineering professor, gave Dr. Kemp a number of books on the history of World War I; Dr. Davis, teasing Dr. Kemp, told him that, “I hope we never have war with Germany, because you’ll be incarcerated.”  Christmas presents from Dr. Davis were often in the form of more books for Dr. Kemp’s collection.  Indeed, his wife, Fern, gave Dr. Kemp one of his favorite books as a Christmas present: the annual edition of Jane’s Fighting Ships by Francis E. McMurtrie, which was a detailed listing of all of the British Navy’s military ships then on the line. 

Cover of book "Jane's Fighting Ships"
(photo in public domain)

As a student at Uni High, Dr. Kemp was also afforded the use of a University of Illinois library card.  Dr. Kemp stated that he “haunted” the university library, and “made very good use” of his library card, at a time when the free run of its stacks was very much an exceptional privilege.  He was also able to avail himself of its Interlibrary Loan service in order to get access to materials not held in the library. Today, a corridor of the library contains a collection of bronze plaques that laud outstanding graduates of the university, and Dr. Kemp proudly noted that his name can be found among that group. 

Through his interest in the war, and the Royal Navy in particular, Dr. Kemp drew inspiration from the drawings in Jane’s Fighting Ships to expand on an earlier hobby of constructing small-scale models from scratch; one of those was of the HMS King George V.  His process was to make drawings, from which he then made the models, with an emphasis on the ships’ armaments.  His collection eventually included military ships from the Royal Canadian Navy as well. Indeed, Dr. Kemp gleefully recalled that, on a recent visit to Canada, he had been able to ride in a British Army artillery tractor, and had promptly pulled out a model that he had made as a boy to “refurbish” upon his return home.

Model ship, likely HMS King George V
(Photo courtesy of Dr. Barb Howe)
Dr. Emory Kemp standing next to a British Army artillery tractor
British Army artillery tractor
(photo courtesy of Dr. Janet Kemp)

Dr. Kemp’s interest in the British Royal Navy led him to explore its origins and development from Elizabethan times forward, as he believed that the Navy, as an instrument of state, had its beginnings in the late sixteenth century.  His research revealed that the government began to build its own ships after the Glorious Revolution in 1688, when James II was forced to abdicate in favor of his daughter, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange. Dr. Kemp said that he began to get very interested in the details and strategy of the Royal Navy as the British Empire expanded; he was also subsequently drawn into Irish history by James II’s attempt there to regain his throne.   

Dr. Kemp also read widely about the history of the conflict in Northern Ireland due to his friendship with Fred McAdams, whose father had marched with the Orange Order (the Protestants).  This group formed the basis of the Ulster Division (later the Ulster Volunteer Force), which would go on to fight in the First World War at the Battle of the Somme; Dr. Kemp noted that his research revealed that the division was almost wiped out in this one battle, thus decimating their geographic region at home.  As a result, Dr. Kemp’s research in this subject came to shape some of his views of war and military engagement. 

Moving on from history, Dr. Kemp also acquired a large collection of engineering and mathematics books, many of them in the area of the history of technology and, more narrowly, the development of the steam engine.  He learned a great deal of technical information from Henry L. Dickenson’s A Short History of the Steam Engine, which is part of his donated collection.  Dr. Kemp also read widely in the areas of thermodynamics, the manufacturing of textiles, British engineers working on harbors, and the British railway system.  Dr. Kemp remarked that several of the textbooks he had used when he was a student at the University of Illinois were donated to the university, but that he retained five shelves of books on twentieth-century engineering. Dr. Kemp’s engineering and technology interests meant that he also acquired a number of books on mathematics, and he said that he has passed on several of these volumes to his grandson, Dr. Paul Anderson, also a civil engineer.   

While Dr. Kemp was serving in the army during the Korean Conflict, he was assigned to the Engineering Research and Development Lab in Virginia.  He began to take courses at George Washington University, where a class in differential equations with Dr. James Henry Taylor sparked a new interest—and a new area for book collecting—for him. Dr. Kemp playfully recalled that he had told a WVU provost that an educated person must have “a familiarity with calculus.” 

When Dr. Kemp received a Fulbright Fellowship to study in England in 1953, he shipped some of his books to England, but managed to acquire a significant number of volumes while he was there, thanks to a book allotment that was part of the scholarship grant.  He was particularly partial to two bookstores in London: one that was in the South Kensington Underground station, and the other, more famous one, Foyle’s, in Charing Cross Road.  Dr. Kemp said that the books he purchased at that time were inexpensive, and that he developed a relationship with the bookseller, who put him in contact with publishing houses so he could buy books at a discount.  Through the bookseller, he was able to purchase the seven-volume set of The Royal Navy: A History – From Earliest Times to 1900.  Dr. Kemp emphasized that establishing a good working relationship with a bookseller is one of the keys to the development of a good book collection. 

Row of book spines of the set "The Royal Navy, A History"
(photo in public domain)

When the time came for his return to the United States, Dr. Kemp was faced with the somewhat herculean task of getting his books back home.  He had taken a job at Ove Arup and Partners, one of the leading engineering firms in London, and was part of a team working on the Sydney Opera House. One of his friends in London, Felix Winkler, a refugee from Czechoslovakia, had shipped all of his belongings to London in big wooden crates he had made at a sawmill.  Dr. Kemp took the empty crates and rebuilt them to accommodate his book collection and other belongings; he then shipped them to Chicago via Liverpool, where the emptied crates stood for “many years” in the parking lot of the complex in which he and his wife had their first apartment.  Dr. Kemp recalled that they were eventually broken up for firewood, but stated, “I regret not keeping those things.”    

Among Dr. Kemp’s favorite volumes was the series of The Cambridge Modern History of Britain, planned by Lord John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton. Dr. Kemp admired Acton’s abilities as a historian, but admitted he had not read any of Acton’s other works; however, he said that he had read this series cover to cover several times, and that the essays in the volumes were written by “really good people.”  Dr. Kemp regarded Acton as a “minor hero” since Acton planned the series and solicited the authors.

Portrait photo of Lord John Dalberg-Acton
Lord John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton
(photo in public domain)

 One of Dr. Kemp’s goals as a professor and as an engineer was to create a contextual work for the history of technology—“real background material for engineers” as he put it—which then did not exist.  He also hoped that this area of history would be incorporated into general history survey classes but did not achieve that goal. However, as Dr. Kemp pointed out, history of technology classes are now in the engineering curriculum at WVU, but only as part of the general education requirements. Many of his books on historic structures that date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were used as part of the effort to incorporate this class into the curriculum.  They were also used by Dr. Kemp when he worked on the restoration of the Wheeling Custom House, also known as the West Virginia Independence Hall. 

Upon the retirement of Roland P. Davis, Dean of the College of Engineering at WVU, Dr. Kemp acquired some of his published works, as Dean Davis was a noted bridge engineer, and had been an instrumental part of creating the West Virginia State Road Commission in 1919. While many of Dean Davis’ works are in the WVU Library, it only holds two volumes from his personal collection of engineering books; Dr. Kemp has one, as well.  It was the practice of the Department of Engineering that, upon the retirement of a faculty member, the books they left behind were put into a big box in the hallway and anyone could choose ones that they wanted—Dr. Kemp said that was how he acquired the works of Dean Davis.  Dr. Kemp felt that modern engineers had no use for dated works, but he believed they still had a great deal of value. 

The history of religion and theology forms the last section of Dr. Kemp’s collection.  Although he donated many of his books in 2016, the donation did not include these volumes, since he was a certified lay speaker in the United Methodist Church and used these books for reference in writing sermons. The donation of his collection to the library, Dr. Kemp felt, was “painful,” as it was almost like “giving yourself away.”  While he continued to use many of his remaining books for reference, he regretfully acknowledged that there probably wouldn’t be very many people interested in the books in his donated collection.   

Sadly, Dr. Kemp passed away on January 20, 2020, but his recollections as recorded in this oral history will continue to remain a valuable resource for all of us.  The books Kemp donated , as well as the oral histories, are part of his collection of papers at the WVRHC.

Undefeated exhibit debuts online on August 7

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
July 22nd, 2020
Artwork by Dayanita Ramesh
Artwork by Dayanita Ramesh

An online version of West Virginia University Libraries’ exhibit Undefeated: Canvas(s)ing the Politics of Voter Suppression Since Women’s Suffrage debuts with a virtual program on Aug. 7 from noon-1 p.m.

Marking the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U. S. Constitution (granting women the right to vote), and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (enforcing voting rights for racial minorities), this exhibition centers on efforts to suppress the votes of women and minorities since 1920.

“This exciting exhibit is timely not only due to the anniversaries of voter inclusion events in our nation’s history, but also timely due to new questions around access to voting that have arisen during this time of COVID-19,” Dean of Libraries Karen Diaz said. “I think everyone will enjoy the artistic approach to presenting the issues through the campaign button motif.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Farmers’ Repository and Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository

Posted by Jessica McMillen.
July 20th, 2020

By: Rachael Barbara Nicholas, WVRHC

A flourishing newsprint culture bloomed in the streets of Charles Town, West Virginia, before the Civil War. The Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository (VFP&FR), one of several antebellum newspapers, devoted itself to a series of political topics, including slavery, congressional representation, and internal improvements. Richard Williams and William Brown edited its predecessor, the Farmers’ Repository, from April 1, 1808, to February 28, 1827, before merging it with the Virginia Free Press in March. The new editors, John S. Gallaher and J. T. Daugherty, opposed the incumbent president, Democrat Andrew Jackson, and promoted the National Republican Party.

Gallaher was professionally and politically qualified to oversee the newspaper. He had previously edited the Virginia Free Press and the Ladies’ Garland, an early example of a women’s magazine. Gallaher assumed full control of the paper after Daugherty “disposed of his interest” on October 6, 1830.[1] Just two weeks later, Gallaher won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates with Edward Lucas, a future superintendent of the Harpers Ferry arsenal. The paper quietly mentioned Gallaher’s political victory, noting the number of votes awarded without highlighting his role as editor. [2] Astute readers understood the connection, and they accepted the paper as Gallaher’s official mouthpiece. Within its pages, Gallaher shared his opinions on presidential candidates and internal improvements, advocating for the expansion of the railroad through Charles Town. The routing of railroads through the Eastern Panhandle would influence the county’s subsequent inclusion in West Virginia.

Another issue that facilitated divisions between eastern and western Virginia was congressional representation. The paper was at its peak in 1830 when Virginia was revising its state constitution. Two concerns dominated the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention: representation and suffrage. Western delegates petitioned for apportionment in the General Assembly on a white basis; they opposed a system of “federal numbers” that included slaves as three-fifths a person, thereby granting additional representation to the eastern slaveholding counties. A “common man” writing for the VFP&FR deemed the system unjust. It is “the wish of the majority for representation to be uniform, according to the white population of the whole State, and not with regard to wealth,” he wrote. “In other words, not for slaves, who, as property, can be considered no more than so many cattle to give a man, where slaves are possessed, greater preponderance in the scale of politics, than one where there is little or no slavery.”[3]

John S. Gallaher
John S. Gallaher, politician and newspaper editor, 1796-1877. Image courtesy of, November 20, 2018.

Although that was true for western delegates, the rest disagreed. Apportionment according to the total white population failed by two votes, as did universal white male suffrage.[4] Two western delegates, John R. Cooke and Richard H. Henderson, received backlash for voting against western interests. As late as 1910, historian Charles Ambler accused Cooke and Henderson of “disloyalty, approaching treason” for supporting the Gordon compromise, which gave the east a 24-person majority in the House of Delegates.[5] Cooke countered similar claims in a series of letters reprinted in the VFP&FR. He argued “that Gen. Gordon’s plan, adopted on the 19th of December… was the successful rival of the plan of white population and federal numbers, instead of being the plan itself,” adding that he “supported the plan of representation now submitted to you, because I thought it the nearest approximation to the ‘white basis’” in a second letter.[6] Gallaher and Daugherty did not challenge Cooke’s assertions, indicating some level of agreement. They thought the new constitution was better than its predecessor, even though it did not “give the West all which we were justly entitled.”[7]

Alexander Campbell in the Virginia Constitutional Convention, 1829-1830
“Alexander Campbell in the Virginia Constitutional Convention, 1829-1830,” painted by George Catlin, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia History OnView.

The integral nature of slavery to political representation may have influenced Gallaher’s stance on another critical issue: colonization. Americans like Gallaher who promoted colonization believed the settlement of slaves in Africa could eliminate the problems associated with American slavery, including political representation. It was not uncommon for writers to denounce the violence of slaveholders or even slavery itself in the VFP&FR. One correspondent did not mince words when he said the “Eastern gentlemen… should hail with pleasure the arrival of the period when Virginia should get rid of the evil of slavery.”[8] Such powerful words, recalling Jefferson’s own objections to slavery, did not suggest any real love for racial equality. Advocates of colonization were keenly interested in the removal of slaves and free African Americans. Hoping for a whiter society, Gallaher offered his solution: “Let the State provide ways and means for transportation to Liberia, of all negroes who were entitled to freedom previous to 1806… And let it be made the duty, by law, of all persons who hereafter emancipate slaves, to provide the means of their removal from the commonwealth.”[9] Gallaher’s advice complied with the 1806 law that mandated the emigration of freepersons within a year of their manumission. Although seemingly calculated to assist African Americans, his declaration betrayed a greater desire to help white Virginians than emancipated slaves. Gallaher and likeminded men hoped their fellow citizens would support the American Colonization Society after Nat Turner’s rebellion in Southampton, a topic that received much attention in the VFR&FR.[10] The slaughter of slaveholding families probably bolstered Gallaher’s belief that slavery was a threat to white Americans that could only be alleviated through colonization.

Gallaher continued to promote colonization in the pages of the VFR&FR until May 1832, when he announced impending changes for the paper. “We desire, about the first of October next, to make an addition to our form, and some general improvement in the appearance of the paper,” Gallaher wrote. “This improvement is contemplated, in order to keep pace with the increasing patronage extended to the FREE PRESS, and to give it a character worthy of competition with any weekly paper in Virginia.”[11] He was wrong in but one respect. Within two months, the Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository had become the Virginia Free Press, beginning a new chapter in Gallaher’s publishing history.[12]

     [1] J. T. Daugherty, “The Free Press,” The Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository, Charles Town, West Virginia, October 6, 1830, p. 3.

     [2] John S. Gallaher, “Jefferson Election,” The Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository, Charles Town, West Virginia, October 20, 1830, p. 3.

     [3] A Common Man, “For the Virginia Free Press,” The Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository, Charles Town, West Virginia, February, 3, 1830, p. 1.

    [4] Ronald L. Heinemann, Old Dominion, New Commonwealth: A History of Virginia, 1607-2007 (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008), 173-174.

     [5] Charles Henry Ambler, Sectionalism in Virginia from 1776 to 1861 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1910), 166, 163.

     [6] John R. Cooke, “The New Constitution,” The Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository, Charles Town, West Virginia, February, 3, 1830, p. 2; John R. Cooke, “The New Constitution,” The Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository, Charles Town, West Virginia, February, 10, 1830, p. 2.

     [7] J. T. Daugherty and John S. Gallaher, “The Free Press,” The Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository, Charles Town, West Virginia, February 17, 1830, p. 3.

     [8] Correspondent, “The Legislature,” The Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository, Charles Town, West Virginia, December 22, 1831, p. 2.

     [9 ] John S. Gallaher, “The Free Press,” The Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository, Charles Town, West Virginia, October 27, 1831, p. 3.

     [10] Unknown author, “Colonization Society,” reprinted in The Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository, Charles Town, West Virginia, September 22, 1831, p. 1.

     [11] John S. Gallaher, “Virginia Free Press,” The Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository, Charles Town, West Virginia, May 3, 1832, p. 1.

     [12] John S. Gallaher, The Virginia Free Press, Charles Town, West Virginia, July 19, 1832, p. 1.

The Constitutionalist

Posted by Jessica McMillen.
July 13th, 2020

By: Rachael Barbara Nicholas, WVRHC

The bustling armory town of Harpers Ferry welcomed a new political paper in spring 1839. The proud editors, James R. Hayman and William S. Smith, offered a prospectus in subsequent volumes, describing their intentions: “As a political paper THE COSTITUTIONALIST will advocate the principles of the present [Democratic] Administration,” those of President Martin Van Buren, “and lend its support to carry out the various measures of political economy advanced by it.” Both Hayman and Smith revered the Constitution, “believing that ‘all powers not clearly granted to the General Government are reserved to the grantors,’” and they named their paper accordingly. As strict constructionists, they opposed any liberal interpretations or “latitudinous constructions of the Constitution as detrimental to State sovereignty.”[1] The debate between loose or strict constructions of the Constitution had shaped political discourse since the Constitution came into existence. The ghosts of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton lingered on, with Democrats claiming Jefferson as their muse.

Opposition to Hamilton’s legacy manifested in hostility towards a national bank. The Constitutionalist regularly berated the “Bank Aristocracy” and praised Andrew Jackson, “the sage of the Hermitage,” for denouncing the Second Bank of the United States.[2] Although Jackson won the “Bank War” by vetoing its recharter bill, debates for and against a national bank did not abate. Democrats and Whigs continued to clash in their respective newspapers throughout the Jacksonian Era. The Constitutionalist’s Jacksonian politics and its hatred for national banks fueled its dedication to covering local and national elections.

The most important election to occur during the Constitutionalist’s existence was the Election of 1840. The presidential election pitted Jacksonian darling, Martin Van Buren, against William Henry Harrison, a Whig. The Constitutionalist took an immense interest in the election, replacing the poems and light literature that traditionally occupied its front pages with political commentary.[3] It not only condemned Harrison for being a Whig, and, by association, a moneyed power in league with banking interests, but also an abolitionist sympathizer.[4] In an era of building sectionalism, the word “abolitionism” crackled across party lines, sparking heated debates. Democrats who patronized newspapers like the Constitutionalist believed it was on the rise. “The abolitionists are not dead—they only sleep,” they warned. “Their stillness is of that awful kind which announces the forthcoming of some mighty evulsion of nature.”[5] The nomination of Harrison for the Whig Party seemed to confirm their suspicions. 

subscription notice
A subscription notice for the Constitutionalist, printed on January 8, 1840, in Volume 1, no. 38. Picture taken by Rachael Barbara Nicholas.

William Lucas, a U.S. congressman, certainly thought so. Shortly before the election, Lucas had shown “beyond the possibility of a doubt, that the [Whig] party were playing into the hands of the Abolitionists”—or so the Constitutionalist claimed.[6] Hayman had other reasons to report favorably on Lucas’s speech, which were decidedly local. Lucas’s brother, Edward, was the civilian superintendent of the Harpers Ferry armory.[7] As superintendent, Lucas dismissed competent Whig armorers and replaced them with fellow Democrats.[8] Angry employees accused him of “Loco-Foco tyranny” and establishing a partisan newspaper, the Constitutionalist, while providing its editors with free public housing.[9] Whether he funded it or not, the Constitutionalist definitely favored Lucas’s interests. Hayman and Smith printed toasts in his name, supported his brother, and censured his opponents.[10]

Harper's Ferry Arsenal
“Drawing of Harpers Ferry Arsenal, Captured by John Brown,” unknown artist. Edward Lucas was the superintendent of the Harpers Ferry armory from 1837 to 1841. Image courtesy of the West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia History OnView.

On one memorable occasion, they reprinted an address from Richard Barton, dated October 16, 1830, in which Barton denounced the “JACKSON MEN” who were “directly or indirectly concerned in the INFAMOUS attempt to SULLY MY HONOR” when he ran for state senator. Hayman and Smith responded tersely: “Comment on the above is useless; it will go to the reflections of all [intelligible] and democracy will stand appalled at the idea of supporting a man who could utter such sentiments.”[11] The editors added that Barton had been campaigning against Hierome L. Opie, but they failed to mention the Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates: Edward Lucas.[12] It was not a coincidence that Hayman and Smith used Barton’s speech against Edward’s party to support William’s bid for the House of Representatives in 1839. Local readers would have implicitly understood the connection between Barton and the two Lucases.

William Henry Harrison
“William Henry Harrison,” painted by A.G. Hoit, engraved by O. Pelton and D. Kimberly. William Henry Harrison was the first Whig to win the presidency. He died one month into his term because of pneumonia. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

They probably understood why Hayman shuttered the Constitutionalist, as well. The newspaper lasted two years before its closure in 1841. The presidential victory of William Henry Harrison had facilitated Lucas’s removal from the armory as superintendent, and Henry K. Craig, a military superintendent, took his place in April 1841.[13] Hayman put his Shenandoah Street home and the newspaper press up for sale in March and May, just as Lucas was preparing to leave.[14] Without Lucas’s patronage, Hayman must have recognized the tides of political change. This may have cemented his decision to leave Harpers Ferry, especially in the absence of William Smith, who had ceased to be a contributing editor between June 12 and September 11, 1839.[15] With Hayman’s departure, the Constitutionalist finished its brief but influential run. 

     [1] James R. Hayman and William S. Smith, “Prospectus of the Constitutionalist,” The Constitutionalist, Harpers Ferry, Virginia, May 1, 1839.

     [2] “Truth is Mighty and Will Prevail,” The Constitutionalist, Harpers Ferry, Virginia, May 23, 1839.

     [3] Compare Volume I, no. XXXVIII (January 8, 1840) to Volume I, no. II (May 1, 1839).

     [4] “Harrison and Abolitionism: The Maine Election,” The Constitutionalist, Harpers Ferry, Virginia, September 24, 1840.

     [5] “Abolitionism,” The Constitutionalist, Harpers Ferry, Virginia, June 12, 1839.

     [6] “Shepherdstown Address,” The Constitutionalist, Harpers Ferry, Virginia, September 24, 1840.

     [7] Merritt Roe Smith, Harpers Ferry Armory and the New Technology: The Challenge of Change (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), 262.

     [8] Ibid., 261.

     [9] Ibid., 262.

     [10] “Democratic Dinner,” The Constitutionalist, Harpers Ferry, Virginia, June 5, 1839.

     [11] “Virginia Elections,” The Richmond Enquirer, Richmond, Virginia, October 26, 1830.

     [12] “Democrats Read,” The Constitutionalist, Harpers Ferry, Virginia, May 23, 1839.

     [13] Smith, Harpers Ferry Armory and the New Technology, 268.

     [14] Jill Y. Halchin, ed., Archaeological Views of the Upper Wager Block, a Domestic and Commercial Neighborhood in Harpers Ferry (Washington, DC: National Park Service, 1994), 2.10.

     [15] Smith’s name had been dropped from the acknowledgments in the intervening months.

#ChronAmParty: Nurses

Posted by Jessica McMillen.
July 6th, 2020

Blog post by Rachael Nicholas, WVRHC.

Earlier this year, May 6-12, we celebrated #NationalNursesWeek. To further that celebration, we examined the pages of historic West Virginia newspapers in Chronicling America, the historic newspaper project, #ChronAm, for nursing stories.

The American Civil War marked a period of significant strife for nurses. The unprecedented times facilitated the enlistment of female nurses, both Union and Confederate, to care for the sick and wounded. They oversaw diets and food distribution, managed supplies provided by the United States Sanitary and Christian Commissions, and offered emotional and spiritual care.[1] Nurses regularly encountered sick men within the ranks. Soldiers suffered from acute diarrhea, typhoid, dysentery, small pox, measles, and scarlet fever.[2] Two out of three soldiers died from disease instead of wounds. Nurses and surgeons treated 400,000 wounds in comparison to 6,000,000 cases of sickness.[3]

Nurses put themselves at risk whenever they helped an ailing soldier or civilian. They lived in a time and place that did not recognize germ theory; doctors preferred “humoral theory,” cutting into infected areas to let “tainted blood” flow out.[4] A poor understanding of germs and disease rendered nurses vulnerable but not defenseless. Nurses who recognized the link between “malarial miasmas” and sickness pursued an assiduous sanitation policy to restrict the spread of disease.[5] Cornelia Hancock, a nurse present at Gettysburg, labored tirelessly to keep her ward clean—so much so that she was accused of secreting additional supplies. “There is one woman here who has the clothes department. They call her ‘General Duncan;’ she is the terror of the whole camp,” Hancock wrote. “She came and blew me up sky high for having my ward so clean, said I must get more than my share of clothes. I answered her very politely and held my tongue. I can get along with her if anyone can.”[6] Hancock did not allow petty disputes to interfere with her diligence. The battles nurses waged against disease could become literal. After the First Battle of Winchester, a Confederate victory, Union nurses succumbed to a human enemy—not germs. One Daniel J. Martin, writing from New Creek, [West] Virginia, informed the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer that Dr. Peale, the head surgeon at Winchester’s Union hospital, “and five nurses belonging to the same establishment were made prisoners at the recent defeat of Banks.” Even “the humane old [hospital] steward Dideren was shot dead.” Martin felt melancholy at the news, which “causes many of us great inquietude,” but he continued his work. His hospital in New

Creek was expecting “three hundred sick and wounded, this day, from Petersburg.” Martin and his men had to “do their utmost endeavors to take care of them kindly and properly.”[7] The Civil War permitted little rest for those who healed the living and buried the dead.

Tents in rows with town in background
Camp of the 22nd Pennsylvania Cavalry, Union Army, in New Creek (Keyser), West Virginia, circa 1865. You can see the town in the background. Daniel Martin wrote of his travails from New Creek’s hospital in 1862. Image courtesy of West Virginia History OnView, West Virginia & Regional History Center, Morgantown, West Virginia.

     [1] Daniel John Hoisington, introduction to Our Army Nurses: Stories from Women in the Civil War, by Mary Gardner Holland (Roseville: Edinborough Press, 1998), v.

     [2] Gordon Dammann, Pictorial Encyclopedia of Civil War Medical Instruments and Equipment (Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1983), 44.

     [3] George Worthington Adams, Doctors in Blue: The Medical History of the Union Army in the Civil War (Dayton, Ohio: Press of Morningside, 1985), 194.

     [4] Dammann, Pictorial Encyclopedia of Civil War Medical Instruments and Equipment, 35.

     [5] Ibid., 197.

     [6] Cornelia Hancock, South after Gettysburg: Letters of Cornelia Hancock, 1863-1868, ed. Henrietta Stratton Jaquette (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1937), 23-24.

  [7] Daniel J. Martin, “From New Creek,” The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Wheeling, [West] Virginia, June 5, 1862, p. 3.

WVU Libraries Offer Anti-racism Collection in Overdrive

Posted by Jessica McMillen.
June 29th, 2020

By Lynne Stahl, PhD
Humanities Librarian

In light of the recent murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd as well as the clear need to take sustained, wide-ranging action against racism at an institutional level, the WVU Libraries Collections Advisory Committee has added a curated Anti-Racism Readings collection on Overdrive that includes both ebooks and audiobooks.

The Collections Advisory Committee’s charge includes “ensuring that selections for specific subject areas are adequate.” In line with this charge and the Core Values of the American Library Association, we believe that the particular histories of anti-Black oppression and underrepresentation that have marked this country since its beginnings need immediate and sustained attention. As Dean Karen Diaz points out in her recent blog post, “Now is when we must ask WHAT and WHOSE cultural record we are creating, amplifying and preserving.” Libraries are not neutral. Collection development and the decisions we make about what resources to add are always political, even when they’re not explicitly framed as such.

Change needs to happen at every level of the university to be truly systemic, and what we can do is help make sure the WVU community has access to relevant information by adding these resources. Change doesn’t happen through reading alone, but self-education and engagement with anti-racist ideas are crucial parts of the process.

We hope you will read and consider these texts in their wholeness and individuality, not simply as educational tools to check off on a prescribed list, and we hope that they become a springboard to introspection, conversation, and action here at WVU and beyond.

Black Lives Matter.

Explore the Collection

Henry Clay Furnace at Coopers Rock

Posted by Jessica McMillen.
June 29th, 2020

Blog post by Lee Maddex, Archives Processing Assistant, WVRHC.

The Henry Clay Furnace hike is one of the most popular hikes taken on Coopers Rock State Forest. It is a relatively short hike, about one mile to the furnace and it is rated as a moderate hike, not too easy, not too difficult. On any given day, numerous hikers can be found along the trail or at the furnace. I have made the hike to Henry Clay Furnace perhaps thirty-five or forty times since the late 1980s and have explored forest adjacent to the trail and furnace many times, as well. During these adventures, I have found the numerous remains of the iron industry. This blog post provides a hiking guide to the vestiges or remnants of the iron industry to see along the trail to the furnace. First a brief history of the Henry Clay Furnace.

Henry Clay Iron Furnace hiking trail sign

Brief History

Leonard Lamb constructed the Henry Clay Iron Furnace in 1834 for the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania firm of Tassey, Morrison and Semple. Lamb presumably named the furnace Henry Clay after the Kentucky senator Henry Clay, who was a great proponent of the American iron industry. Interestingly, Lamb also named his third son Henry Clay, as well (born December 22, 1834). The Henry Clay Furnace was the first steampowered iron furnace in Western Virginia and operated until 1848. It was abandoned after its iron ore supply was depleted.

The Henry Clay Furnace was part of a larger ironworks complex. At its height in the late 1840s, this industrial complex (known as the Monongalia Iron Works), included not only the Henry Clay Furnace, but two additional iron furnaces, the Woodgrove and Anna furnaces; and a cut nail factory, a stove works, a rolling mill, puddling furnaces, sawmill, and grist mill located at Ices Ferry; plus some 14,000 acres of timber and iron ore lands in Monongalia and Preston counties. Interestingly, the footprint of Coopers Rock State Forest sits virtually on top of the footprint of this historic ironmaking tract.

hikers at furnace
Henry Clay Furnace was a popular destination for hikers well before the creation of Coopers Rock State Forest in 1936. Shown here are hikers at the furnace in 1890.

Remnants of the Iron Industry

The Henry Clay Furnace is the most recognizable remnant of the ironmaking industry that once flourished on the present-day Coopers Rock State Forest. What follows is a guide to the less oblivious remains of this iron industry and takes the form of a travel log starting at the Henry Clay Furnace parking lot.

The road to the Henry Clay Furnace (aka Clay Furnace Trail) is a less than oblivious vestige of the iron industry. Today this road is just one of many forest trails, connecting with several other forest trails, but it predates the building of the Henry Clay Furnace. The road’s construction dates to the early nineteenth century, and historically it led east to the crossroads at Hopewell Church and west to a point on the early road across Chestnut Ridge. Like real estate, where location is key, iron furnaces needed to be near its raw materials (iron ore, timber for charcoal and limestone), making its location crucial. Leonard Lamb chose a site that was ideal for an iron furnace. Not only was the furnace site near its raw materials, but the road facilitated the construction of the Henry Clay Furnace. It permitted relatively easy access for the stone masons to quarry and transport stone to the site, and after its completion, transporting of the product of the furnace, pig iron, to Ices Ferry. Just imagine hauling a huge steam engine to the furnace site over this road!

As you leave the Henry Clay Furnace parking lot on the way to the furnace, the road will initially be rocky and rough. After about 0.25 miles, the road will start to level out. Look to the right and you will notice a trace of trail running diagonally down into the woods. This is not a trail, but the remnant of a tramroad. This tramroad was a horse drawn railroad, that was used to haul iron ore to the furnace from the nearby iron ore mines.

Several additional miles of tramroads were built on the forest in the 1840s and 50s. The tramroad shown here dates to the 1850s. Note the use of wooden rails.

Continue down the road. After a short distance, about 150 feet, look to the right and you will notice several deep holes below the road. These are iron ore mines, where iron ore for the Henry Clay Furnace was mined. Iron ore was mined by excavating the soil and rock layer above the iron ore. Once uncovered the iron ore was broken up with sledgehammers and hauled to the furnace on the adjacent tramroad. These mines take the form of pits and trenches and are extensive on this side of the road. These “ore banks,” as they were known in the nineteenth century, are the earliest iron mines associated with the Henry Clay Furnace.

iron ore pit
Iron Ore Pit

Continue down the road, perhaps another 0.10 miles. On left above the road are more iron ore mines. These are trenches (once the iron ore was located, it was mined by following the contours of the land). You will have to scramble up the bank to see these trenches (just be careful climbing up and down the bank; it can be a little treacherous). If you check around the base of trees near these trenches, you will see “spoils,” bits of shale excavated in the mining process, and generally you see fragments of iron ore as well. The iron ore is dense and heavy for its size and will be red and/or red and black. It will vary in size from fragments to sometimes large pieces. Historically, the miners called these ores, the “Red Belt Ores,” and are same ores mined on the other side of the road. These are also the earliest mines associated with the Henry Clay Furnace.

Iron Ore Trench
Iron Ore Trench

Not everything to see on your hike to the furnace relates to the iron industry. There are natural features too. As you near the furnace, the trail becomes a little rougher again. The bank is steep on the left and the hillside drops away on the right. Look to the right for a boulder, a piece of Connoquenessing sandstone. From up the trail it looks like another rock, in a landscape full of rocks and boulders, but continue down the road another ten feet or so, past the boulder and look back up at it. It may take a moment or two to find the right perspective, but you will see a boulder that has the distinct shape of a fish. You can make out the mouth, the eye, a fin, and the tail. The tail makes a fine seat too if you need to take a break.

fish-shaped boulder
Fish-Shaped Boulder

When you arrive at the junction of the Henry Clay Furnace road and the Advanced Ski Trail, take a moment to stop and look at the back of the furnace. This level ground was where the furnace was charged with its blend of iron ore, limestone, and charcoal used in the smelting process (no longer extant, but there was a bridge that connected this area with the furnace). Notice the ground is black from the charcoal. Also note how the bank behind the furnace has been eroded by mountain bikers riding down the hillside. This is a fun ride I am sure, but this activity is extremely bad for the furnace remains.

As you resume your hike toward the furnace, the road bends to the right and it becomes rather rough again. This part of the road was paved using slag. Slag is the glassy byproduct of iron smelting process. Slag is ubiquitous around the furnace with “slag heaps,” or piles of slag everywhere within a quarter mile of the furnace. There is even a slag island in Clay Run.

Henry Clay Iron Furnace
The Henry Clay Furnace in the fall of 2019. The steam engine sat to the right of the furnace and the molten iron was run out into a sand bed in front of the furnace. The dendritic pattern formed by the iron being cast resembled piglets suckling at the mother sow, thus the name “pig iron.”

When you arrive at the furnace, take some time to closely look at it. The furnace is in remarkable condition for a structure that is nearly two hundred years old. Look at the stonework. Each stone was hand cut and placed without the use of power tools or other modern construction equipment. Also notice the care taken to add texture or rustication to each stone block.

close-up of stonework
Close up of the stonework

This concludes your tour to the Henry Clay Furnace. From here you can return the way you came or venture on one of the forest trails that connect at the furnace. Most of all enjoy your time at Coopers Rock State Forest!

The Grateful Dead in Morgantown in 1983

Posted by Jessica McMillen.
June 22nd, 2020

Blog post by Lee Maddex, Archives Processing Assistant, WVRHC.

On April 10, 1983, the legendary San Francisco rock group, the Grateful Dead, played the West Virginia University Coliseum to much ado. Formed in 1965, the Dead forged their own musical path over the next thirty years, playing well over 2,300 concerts. Often perceived as a 1960s psychedelic throw-back band, the Grateful Dead had their roots in folk and jug band music and jazz and played a sophisticated blend of rock and roll, jazz, country and blues (now is known as roots music or Americana). The group disbanded in 1995 following the death of lead guitarist Jerry Garcia. This blog post touches briefly on the actual concert, but mostly examines the local and student reaction to the Grateful Dead and their followers coming to Morgantown.

Now nearly four decades later, it is easy to forget how popular the Grateful Dead once were, but in the early 1980s, the Grateful Dead were extremely popular with college students on campuses across the United States. WVU was no exception and our campus had a couple hundred ardent Dead fans known as Dead Heads. Not an overwhelming number but we had our fair share. In fact, when the local Grateful Dead cover band Nexus played downtown at the Underground Railroad (now 123 Pleasant Street), it was always packed with students and locals alike, dancing to the songs of the Dead until closing time. So, when the WVU Pop Arts Committee announced that the Grateful Dead were to play the WVU Coliseum on April 10 there was excitement both on campus and around the state. Tickets went on sale at the Coliseum on Sunday March 13 at 1:00pm. A sizeable crowd of students and fans camped out inline starting late Saturday night to get the best tickets when the box office opened the next day.

Invitation to Grateful Dead concert
The Go Go’s, Flock of Seagulls, Pat Benatar, Kenny Rogers, and the Oak Ridge Boys all played the WVU Coliseum during the 1982-83 academic year.

However, this excitement for the Grateful Dead concert was not shared by the local law enforcement. Morgantown Chief of Police John Cease was not very sanguine about the Grateful Dead coming to campus and was clearly in near panic over the concert. In a Dominion Post article dated Friday April 8, 1983, Cease said that the Grateful Dead were “notorious for its almost “cult-like followers” and that “we are anticipating we will probably have some motorcycle guys in here Sunday.” Cease went on to say “come Sunday, there will be an influx of persons into Morgantown [and] typically, Grateful Dead followers camp out rather than lodge in hotels…and that there have been “situations where people camp out on public grounds, private buildings and vacant buildings without much regard to those whose property they were on.” He concluded “It is the group activities before and after the concert that have presented the most direct threat to communities.” Fortunately, not all the local officials were in a state of panic. Cease acknowledged that the “university officials” stated that they are “well attuned to planning for the concert.” Cease’s near hysteria was remarkable considering on any given home football weekend, Morgantown experienced a huge influx of sports fans, many rowdy and law enforcement had no trouble handling the football crowd.

The Pop Arts Committee was the student-elected group tasked with bringing concerts to campus. Starting in the mid-1970s, they brought many big-name musical acts to the Coliseum, such as Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, America, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the Doobie Brothers, Boston, and many others. However, by 1980 the Pop Arts Committee struggled to bring in national touring bands because of the restriction prohibiting hanging equipment from the Coliseum’s dome. It was believed that the weight of this equipment would structurally compromise the Coliseum. Eventually it was determined that it was safe to hang lights and speakers from the dome. The Grateful Dead were one of the first bands permitted to hang their equipment hung from the dome.

The rumor on campus after the show, was that the Grateful Dead caught wind of this story (likely from the student stagehands, who worked the show) and that the Dead, ever the pranksters, wanted to test the structural soundness of the Coliseum. To that end, they opened the show with Samson and Delilah, a loud, rocking song that had the chorus “If I had my way, I would tear this old building down.” The Dead tried their best to tear down the Coliseum, but they, thankfully, failed.

Bob Weir
Rhythm Guitarist Bob Weir. Weir is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is still on the road performing Grateful Dead music

The Dead, however, did succeed in getting the audience up and dancing for the entire show! And by the end of the concert, the Coliseum crowd had enjoyed a typical early 1980s Grateful Dead concert. From the Samson and Delilah opener to the U.S. Blues encore, the setlist included songs ranging from their earliest days with Me and My Uncle to the 1970s with Uncle John’s Band and Sugar Magnolia to newer songs like Althea and My Brother Esau to the future top twenty hit Touch of Grey, that opened the second set. The concert was fair to middling musically, nothing too stellar, just some well-played “good old Grateful Dead.” However, without a doubt, everyone left the Coliseum with a smile on their face.

Local and student reaction to the concert was a mixed depending on who was commenting. The Dominion Post reporter, who clearly did not attend the show reported the next day “An influx of dead heads into Morgantown during the weekend to attend a rock concert turned a lot of heads, but for the most part passed without incident.” The reporter went on to say that only one concert goer had been arrested by the end of the show “for public indecency and intoxication.” (Oddly enough, this arrest occurred right in front of this author.) Police Chief John Cease, whose dire predictions did not come to pass, noted “Sunday…night passed without incident.”

The Daily Athenaeum sent student reporter Rich Gaw to the concert. His “jottings of a roving eye reporter” as he called them were published in the DA on Monday. It was clear that he did not get the Dead or the Dead Heads. Although the concert was a novel experience for Gaw (Dead Heads would disagree and say each show was a unique experience, a compelling reason to see more shows), he unwittingly captured the essence of the Grateful Dead concert experience. Gaw writes: “Outside the Coliseum, hordes of flowery vans flanked by gypsies are lined up in the parking lot. Lots of babies…Middle-aged women with long skirts parade in the blue entrance gate selling buttons, t-shirts, and tie-dye shirts.” He goes on “Concert starts. Coliseum transformed into traveling road show. Jerry’s harem weaving fluidly in the aisles, silhouetted against the exit gates. Going to Dead show is more a novelty than anything else. Like saying you’ve been to World Series…I watch some young man run up the aisles without clothing…I concluded that acid at a Dead Show is like hotdogs at a Yankee game…”

Jerry Garcia
Lead Guitarist Jerry Garcia. The song writing duo of Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter produced a canon of music that was superb with its beautiful melodies and timeless lyrics.

Laura Chiodo a contributor to the 1983 Monticola (WVU yearbook) had, for the most part, a better understanding of the Grateful Dead and their fans. She noted in the Monticola: “April 10, a rock and roll institution stopped in Morgantown. The Grateful Dead, followed by Dead Heads from across the nation, took concert attenders back to the days of peace, love and understanding. On the seats, in the aisles and with each other, Dead Heads danced throughout the two and a half-hour show. Guitarist extraordinaire, Jerry Garcia, laid down licks which proved why the Dead is such a mainstay in rock and roll history. Although many students did not attend, faithful Dead followers kept ticket sales from suffering…”

When it was all said and done, Morgantown survived the Grateful Dead and the Dead Heads. While there was one arrest, the Dead Heads did not run wild through the streets of Morgantown, destroying public property and the bikers never descended on the University City. The band and touring fans had the next day off, but they did not linger. Everyone moved on, heading to the next show in Binghamton, New York. And while Morgantown looked a little different in the Monday morning light, ultimately, the Grateful Dead left behind only memories and a few dozen of Grateful Dead related stickers on signs all around town.

Please note the Dominion Post and Daily Athenaeum newspapers and the Monticola yearbooks are available for use at the West Virginia Regional History Center.

There were multiple live recordings of the April 10, 1983 WVU Coliseum show available for your listening pleasure at

Black Lives Matter in Libraries

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
June 15th, 2020

By Karen Diaz, Dean of WVU Libraries

The outrage, anger, and sadness of George Floyd’s murder is palpable in our community, nation and world.  I share those sentiments and like many think “these killings have got to stop”.  We know systemic racism and violence against Black people are not new problems, but we have reached a new crescendo.

I have struggled personally with how to respond from the WVU Libraries. I have been leery of creating yet one more statement in a sea of statements.  It’s too easy to say something – but so hard to create meaningful change. At the same time, I recognize that there is a need to verbalize intention if we want to move our organization in a new direction. I was pleased that our university president has led with such a statement and has challenged me, as a part of the WVU community to act.

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The Labor Movement and The Wheeling Majority Newspaper

Posted by Jessica McMillen.
June 15th, 2020

By Nathan Kosmicki, WVRHC Graduate Assistant

Wheeling, West Virginia was a bustling town by the beginning of the Twentieth Century. It was the largest city in West Virginia and home to many industries including; steel, glass, pottery, breweries, and tobacco works. The period (roughly) between 1890 and 1920 has been called the Progressive Era for a number of reasons; the activism of several social movements, governmental intervention in public health and industrial matters, and societal shifts in the name of “progress”. Some of these were the famous trust busting of Theodore Roosevelt, the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration, the Temperance Movement, and the Labor Movement.

The Labor Movement was a social movement to address the vast gaps in economic equality which plagued the working classes of the United States. This labor movement was present in Wheeling, and in fact was very active during the first decades of the Twentieth Century. The Wheeling Majority was a socialist newspaper which circulated on a weekly basis in the city. Beneath the banner read the words “For those who plod with plow, pick, or pen”, suggesting that this publication was for all members of the working class.The Wheeling Majority featured articles and columns from noted labor leaders such as Eugene V. Debs and Mother Jones. Mother Jones was famous for her efforts with the United Mine Workers of America to unionize the coal miners in West Virginia. In addition to this, articles regarding women’s suffrage and boycotts of certain businesses would be posted. Wheeling was a hotbed of socialist activism for the state due to the aforementioned industrial presence but also because of the Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly. This organization made the dissemination of materials easier and brought together more than forty individual unions in the Ohio Valley area.

Mother Jones
A photograph of Mother (Mary) Jones, a prominent advocate for both labor and women’s rights in the Progressive Era.

Online West Virginia Day program to spotlight state’s contribution to Suffrage

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
June 12th, 2020
Group picture of Women's Suffrage League
Women’s Suffrage League, WVU, ca 1920

One hundred years ago, West Virginia legislators met at the State Capitol in Charleston to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which extended voting rights to women. West Virginia University Libraries and the West Virginia and Regional History Center will mark the milestone with an online West Virginia Day program on Saturday, June 20, at 10 a.m.

A link to the webinar is available at

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Coopers Rock in Historic Photographs

Posted by Jessica McMillen.
June 8th, 2020

By McKayla Herron, WVRHC Graduate Assistant

Being originally from Utah, distinctive rocks and mountains feel like home to me, so I’ve enjoyed visiting Coopers Rock during my time as a student in Morgantown. Following one of my visits, I was interested to see how many photographs the WVRHC has of Coopers Rock. My search on West Virginia History OnView did not disappoint! Below is a sampling of historic photographs of this local landmark, spanning about 70 years. The view hasn’t changed much, but fashion definitely has!

Visitors at Cooper's Rock
Visitors at Cooper’s Rock, circa 1890 (
Group at Cooper's Rocks
Group at Cooper’s Rock, 1905 (
Friends Take in the View at Coopers Rock
Friends Take in the View at Coopers Rock, circa 1910 (
Two Girls on Graffiti Covered Rock
Two Girls on Graffiti Covered Rock, Coopers Rock State Forest, circa 1920 (
Civilian Conservation Corps Member John Cortez
Civilian Conservation Corps Member John Cortez at Cooper’s Rock, circa 1940 (
Family at Coopers Rock
Family at Coopers Rock, 1941 (
Young Couple Enjoying the View from the Overlook
Young Couple Enjoying the View from the Overlook at Cooper’s Rock State Park, circa 1950 (

Enjoying the View at Coopers Rock, 1951 (
Tourists at Cooper's Rock,
Tourists at Cooper’s Rock, 1961 (

Sampling a New Collection: More Historical Postcards from the Edward Utz Collection

Posted by Jessica McMillen.
June 1st, 2020

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

In a previous blog regarding the Utz postcard collection I brought attention to historical images of railroad depots in the state of West Virginia.  For my History Center blog this month I will continue to survey this collection on a new topic, the town of Petersburg, West Virginia in Grant County.  Founded in 1745 by Jacob Peterson, Petersburg lies in a valley on the South Branch of the Potomac River with a present day population of about 2600 citizens

Hermitage Inn, Petersburg, West Virginia
Hermitage Inn, Petersburg, West Virginia; ca. 1910-1920.
(from the Edward Utz collection, A&M 4458,
West Virginia and Regional History Center)

Two of the postcards document historic landmarks that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  One them is of the Hermitage Inn.  Built in 1840 along the main local highway, it was converted into a hotel in 1881 and it’s been in operation ever since.  According to the National Register nomination form, which includes historical narrative, we are informed that the building was erected with bricks by local slaves who fired them on the site, and that during the Civil War Union troops lodged here during campaigns in the valley.

Dining room of the Hermitage Inn, Petersburg, West Virginia
Dining room of the Hermitage Inn, Petersburg, West Virginia; ca. 1940-1950.
(from the Edward Utz collection, A&M 4458, WVRHC)
Grant County Court House
Grant County Court House, Petersburg, West Virginia; ca. 1905-1908.
(from the Edward Utz collection, A&M 4458, WVRHC)

Like the Hermitage Inn, the County Court House has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Built in 1878-1879, it was later expanded in 1909.  This view of the building shows how it looked about 10 years before its 1909 expansion.

Sawmill, Petersburg, West Virginia; undated.
(from the Edward Utz collection, A&M 4458, WVRHC)

According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, early settlers in the region used man-powered whip-saws and water-powered sawmills, so this postcard of an early sawmill,  photographed some time in the early 20th century, documents a significant historical landmark from the frontier past.

First Train to Petersburg on the Hampshire Southern Railroad
First Train to Petersburg on the Hampshire Southern Railroad,
Petersburg, West Virginia; 1910.
(from the Edward Utz collection, A&M 4458, WVRHC)

When one learns about the history of efforts to build a railroad line into the valley of the South Branch of the Potomac River, linking southward from Green Spring, West Virginia to Petersburg, a distance of nearly 60 miles, then the significance and sense of occasion manifest in this photograph comes into focus.  It had taken 35 years, and several railroad companies, before the line was completed, from the initial investment of Kanawha County businessmen in 1875, until the final success in 1910 by the Hampshire Southern Railroad Company.  Petersburg had been waiting years for the completion of a rail link to their town, so it seems fitting that a photographer was there to document the arrival of the first train.  The crowd we can see in the resulting photograph have come out to witness the first train’s appearance, likely in the expectation of better days to come through the economic opportunities and convenience it would afford them.

"Horse and Buggy Days, Petersburg Gap"
“Horse and Buggy Days, Petersburg Gap”; 1902
(from the Edward Utz collection, A&M 4458, WVRHC)

The “Horse and Buggy Days” postcard, likely published sometime in the period 1915-1920, shows a scene of local residents gathering at Petersburg Gap, a favorite recreational retreat for locals situated about two and one-half miles from the town of Petersburg on the South Branch of the Potomac River.  The cliff in the background rises to a height of 800 feet and is known as “Picture Rock” since the outlines of a fox and ox can apparently be seen in the rock formations.  This site is still popular, and is now managed by Grant County as “Welton Park.”

offline sources consulted:

digitized postcards from the Edward Utz collection, A&M 4458 (WVU Libraries, West Virginia and Regional History Center)

online sources consulted:

“Historic Properties Inventory Form, Hermitage Inn”


“National Register of Historic Places, Inventory-Nomination Form, Grant County Court House” (

“Sawmills” (

“Grant County, Parks and Recreation” (


“Petersburg, West Virginia”

“Hermitage Motor Inn”

“Grant County Court House (West Virginia)”

“South Branch Valley Railroad”

For other recent History Center blog posts related to new acquisitions, see:

Collection Highlight: A Souvenir of the 1893 World’s Columbian ExpositionSampling a New Collection: Historical Postcards of Railroad Depots

Reflections on Processing Governor Arch Moore’s Papers

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 25th, 2020

Blog post by Abbi Smithmyer, Graduate Student Assistant, WVRHC.

My name is Abbi Smithmyer and this May I will graduate with a master’s degree in Nineteenth Century United States History with a minor field in Public History from West Virginia University. This past year, while pursuing my degree, I had the privilege to work as a Graduate Assistant at the West Virginia and Regional History Center Archives. As a historian in training, working at an archive has been an interesting and rewarding experience. Throughout my assistantship, I worked on the congressional archives of former United States Congressman and West Virginia Governor, Arch A. Moore Jr.

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WVU Libraries names three Munn Scholars

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
May 20th, 2020

West Virginia University Libraries’ Teaching and Learning Committee has selected three Honors College students as 2020 Robert F. Munn Undergraduate Library Scholars.

“All of us at WVU Libraries are pleased to name Iain MacKay, Jordan Nistendirk and Jack Steketee as Munn Scholars,” Dean of Libraries Karen Diaz said. “Despite all of the challenges surrounding COVID-19, such as a closed campus, they exceeded expectations in the research they conducted and the impressive works of scholarship they produced.”

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Reflections on Processing the Senator John D. Rockefeller IV Collection

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 18th, 2020

Blog post by Maggie Beck, Graduate Student Assistant, WVRHC.

Hello! My name is Maggie Beck and I am a graduate assistant working on processing the massive Senator John D. Rockefeller IV collection. As a dual-degree student working on a Master’s in Social Work and Public Administration, Senator Rockefeller’s work is particularly interesting for me as he worked on many pieces of healthcare legislation.

Maggie Beck
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O’Brien, former dean of libraries, passes away

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
May 13th, 2020
Frances OBrien

Frances O’Brien, former Dean of West Virginia University Libraries, passed away Friday, May 8, at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Her daughter, EJ Painter, was with her.

O’Brien served as dean of Libraries from June 1999 until her retirement in December 2011. During her tenure, she oversaw the construction of the Downtown Campus Library and the Library’s state-of-the-art Book Depository as well as renovations to the Wise Library and Evansdale Library. In addition, she worked to implement multiple technological enhancements.

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How to Tell the Age of a Book

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 11th, 2020

Blog post by Jessica Kambara, LTAII/Rare Book Room assistant, WVRHC.

Historical events are not only recorded in the content of books. All parts of a book contain information, from the cover design to the paper to the damage sustained over time.  Book characteristics vary widely depending on the region and time period they were produced; things like war, national affluence, religious movements, and literacy rates all affect book making. Bibliography or bibliology is the study of books and a wide field of study, as such, it cannot be mastered in one day. However, this guide will break down some simple ways to tell the age of a book and serve as a basic introduction to the history of books.

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