Illustrations from a Magnificent Character

6449374-mRecently added online are a collection of illustrations by Lucy Herndon Crockett, a successful author and illustrator from Southwest Virginia’s Smyth county. Lucy authored nine books during her lifetime, the most well-known being “The Magnificent Bastards” in 1954, about her experiences with the U.S. Marine Corps in the South Pacific during World War II. In 1956, it was adapted by Paramount Pictures into an Oscar-nominated film “The Proud and the Profane,” starring Deborah Kerr and William Holden. In addition to her writing career, Lucy lead a very interesting life. 

Ms2011-032
Movie Poster from Paramount Pictures’ ‘The Proud and the Profane,’ 1956, adapted from Crockett’s book ‘The Magnificent Bastards’

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1914, Lucy spent most of her childhood on various military bases around the world, including Venezuela and Switzerland. After high school, she accompanied her father while he served as advisor to Governor General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who was overseeing both Puerto Rico and the Philippine Islands. During World War II, she served a five year tour of duty with the Red Cross in New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, the Philippines, Japan and Korea.

It was this time period that inspired much of the material for her books, including ‘Teru: A Tale of Yokohama,’ for which we have the original illustrations. Her passionate personality and strong sense of duty comes through in many of her characters. Interviewers described Lucy as a lady who “seemed too gentle for the ugliness she described” in her writings. In her book ‘The Magnificent Bastards,’ she said “The theme of my book actually is how each person has a breaking point, and if you are lucky in life you are not put to it. In my book I say it is frightening how we can never anticipate how we will react under strain, and my book is about strain.” When asked why she got into the war, she said that “war, horrible as it is, is an experience that some people cannot resist participating in if they possibly can. With me, I am sure a sense of duty is wrapped up in it.”

91dd2515c5f6c1ade639abae1e727cba1
Illustration from Terru: A Tale of Yokohama

In 1947, Lucy retired from the Red Cross and settled in Southwest Virginia. Her creative pursuits, many travels and strong opinions made Lucy a well-known eccentric character in Seven Mile Ford, where she lived most of her adult life in a historic 22-room house called ‘The Ford.’ Alongside her mother Nell, Lucy ran a gift shop out of the house called “The Wilderness Road Trading Post.” The shop featured her books, illustrations, paintings, decoupage and hand-hooked rugs. She designed the rug patterns which were then executed by local craftsmen.

a7a9ab82dcf47281e578be601f5bf442
Illustration from Terru: A Tale of Yokohama

Over the years, Lucy became increasingly eccentric and paranoid of those around her; at one point, threatening behavior toward then President John Kennedy led to a period of house arrest. She was known to write many letters to local newspaper editors. One of Lucy’s most interesting letters detailed her objection to a landfill being built just north of Seven Mile Ford, near the Middle Fork of the Holston River. She described county officials as “displaying an ape-like display of leadership genius” in proposing to “turn this heavenly segment of landscape into a dump.” She argued that the site instead be turned into a resort that would attract tourists. She even suggested a name the project-“Cayetana,” after a friend of hers, Cayetana Alba, the “Duchess of Alba, grandee of Spain.” According to Lucy, the Duchess and her friends were “enthusiastically prepared to sponsor this project.”

Lucy Herndon Crockett died in 2002. The closing paragraph of her obituary best describes her character. She “always had people who were willing to try to help her. Perhaps they were drawn to her complex personality, her prominent possessions or her seeming helplessness. A caregiver who may have known her best at the end of her life described her as kind, loving, generous, selfish, fearful, distrusting and confused. Ironically, these are the same universal emotions which she so skillfully wove into her characters in her best known book, The Magnificent Bastards.”

 

And Lift Off! Highlights of the Michael Collins collection are now online!

61fc782cb25a899aabb28d51f4217be6
Photograph of the Agena target vehicle rocket launch for the NASA Gemini 10 Mission, 1966 Link

Occasionally I get the chance to work with something in our collections that give me shivers, and the notebooks that astronaut Michael Collins used on the NASA Gemini and Apollo spaceflight missions definitely fall into that category. I mean, it isn’t often that you get to handle and scan items that have actually been in space! You can see the online collection here.

Michael Collins is probably most famous for his role as the command module pilot on the Apollo 11 Mission, the first manned mission to land on the lunar surface. Collins orbited the moon while commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin descended to its surface.

pages-from-ms1989-029_b08_f2_complete
Excerpt from Collins’ training notebook for the Apollo 11 Mission, diagramming his lunar landing flight maneuver See notebook 

In 1989, Virginia Tech Special Collections was honored to receive his papers, which cover Collins’ Air Force career, training at the U. S. Test Pilot School and Experimental Flight Center, participation in NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs, and tenure at the State Department and NASM. While this collection has been heavily used by students and researchers for many years, it wasn’t until this past summer and fall of 2016 that we were able to get a large portion of it scanned and ready to go online. I’m really excited to get some of these items out there for the wider world to see.

Before the Apollo missions, Collins was also involved in the Gemini missions, serving as pilot of Gemini 10, launched July 18, 1966. During this mission, Collins and commander John Young set a new orbital altitude record and completed a successful rendezvous with a separate orbiting space vehicle, paving the way for modern day space vehicle maneuvers such as docking with the International Space Station. Another notable achievement from this mission was the successful completion of two spacewalks by Collins. Collins was the was fourth person ever to perform a spacewalk (referred to by NASA as an EVA, or Extravehicular Activity), and the first person to ever perform more than one. 

pages-from-ms1989-029_b11_f1b
Excerpt from the Apollo 11 onboard transcript, showing the moment Armstrong landed the spacecraft on the moon, 1969 See the transcript

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After retiring from the NASA astronaut program in 1970, Collins worked for the US State Department and the Smithsonian Institute, serving as the first director of the National Air and Space Museum. The collection also includes many items related to his later work, as well as many items sent to him by adoring fans and space enthusiasts from around the world. What’s now online is just a portion of the collection, hopefully we’ll be able to get more up soon. You can see the finding aid for the collection here.

166b9bf22e297cc28f453a27236d9e3e
Collins during training for the Gemini 10 mission, 1966 link

Capturing Virginia Tech’s past through VT Stories

website-logo-large-maroon-dial

Although we have a lot of important records and collections in the university archives that document Virginia Tech’s past, there are still countless stories, traditions and experiences that have never been recorded. But these personal stories are just as important to understanding our history as any document from the President’s office or the Office of Student Affairs. And that’s where the VT Stories project comes in.

Since 2015, a team of current students and faculty have been recording oral history interviews with Virginia Tech alumni, capturing the stories and experiences of VT students from the 1940s all the way up through the past decade. The goal behind this project is to promote engagement between older Hokies and newer Hokies, with current students interviewing alumni to learn their history and make mentoring connections, in addition to sharing and preserving stories from Virginia Tech’s past that may otherwise be lost.

With the public launch of VTstories.org this month, I thought I’d share a little bit about the project and Special Collections’ role. The project was started in 2015 by the President’s Office and is managed by faculty and staff in History, English, TLOS, the Alumni Association, and us here in Special Collections. After the interviews are recorded by the VT Stories team, fully transcribed by a professional transcription service, reviewed by the interviewees, and permissions are granted to share the stories with the public, the master files and documents are deposited in Special Collections. As the completed oral histories trickle in, the full audio and transcripts are uploaded to VT Special Collections Online, where they are available for listening in their entirety.

artworks-000187556876-tyfadt-t500x500
Lisa Ellison, Class of 1986, listen to her story here

A lot of the technical skills and workflows that we developed for the VT LGBTQ Oral History Project  are being used for the VT Stories project, including the use of the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer  developed by the University of Kentucky. A good thing too; with over 60 interviews already recorded, and many more planned, it helps having a blueprint for managing an oral history project this big already in place.

Just a handful of the interviews are available online so far, with many more to come in the next few months. In addition to the full audio and transcripts available on our site, VTstories.org features sound clips, photos and write-ups on the interviewees, plus more information about the project and its participants. Check it out!

Hitting on a Girl, Civil War Style

I love stumbling across letters in our collections that offer a glimpse of everyday romance. It’s something we can all relate to. So I when I came across a letter while digitizing a collection from a Confederate soldier confessing his feelings of “something more than friendship, far exceeding gratitude,” I was excited to share.

The letter, found in the Koontz Family Papers, was written by Angus Ridgill, a private from Alabama, to Nellie Koontz, a young woman living in the Shenandoah Valley, in August, 1863. The letter was ostensibly written as a thankyou note to Nellie and her family for housing him recently as a lone soldier, but Angus also uses the opportunity to confess his infatuation with her.

1d49b8983ad26a6afd275f5622cdfb1f
First page of Angus Ridgill’s letter to Nellie Koontz, dated August 17, 1863. See it online here

He writes:

“I am naturally a creature of impulses, and the first few moments I passed in your company was sufficient to make me entirely subservient to your will, be that what it may.”

He continues with assurances that this confession was not his original intention of the letter, that he doesn’t expect his feelings to be fully reciprocated, and can only wait for an appropriate response-

“still I do trust that you will allow me time and opportunity to prove anything which you may wish to know…”

He finishes with an apology:

“if all this time I have been presuming too much upon your former kindness I most humbly ask your pardon, hoping at the same time that I have not forfeited your friendship.”

Whether Angus ever received a response from Nellie is not known. But seeing as this letter was not immediately torn to shreds, but instead, carefully saved alongside those from her brothers and cousin (who were also off fighting for the Confederacy), we can assume his message had some significance to her.

An ‘A.G. Ridgill’ is listed as a private in the Washington Battalion, Louisiana Artillery, and in the 1870 census, Angus Ridgill is listed as age 24, making him only 16 or 17 when he wrote this letter. In the 1860 U.S. Census, Ellen F. ‘Nellie’ Koontz was listed as 16 years old, making her 19 in 1863 at the time of this letter. I guess this proves teenage love messages were alive and well 150 years ago, just with more cursive and less emojis.

Sadly, census records also tell us that Angus and Nellie didn’t end up together. In the 1880 census, A.G. Ridgill, now 33, is listed as living in Van Zandt, Texas, working as a farmer and married to an Elizabeth, age 29. Also living with him is an 8 year old step son, and two daughters, ages 5 and 3. In the same year Nellie, now listed as Nellie F. McCann, is married to N.F. McCann, an editor, and also has a son, 8, and two daughters, ages 4 and 2.  Hopefully they both found true love with their respective spouses and were happy with their marriages and families at this stage in their lives.

In addition to this letter, the Koontz Family Papers contains correspondence from brothers George and Milton Koontz and their cousin George Miller, each of whom served in the Confederate armies of Virginia. The collection also includes letters sent from other friends and two diaries and a sketchbook from Milton Koontz. The entirety of this collection is now online, including transcripts. Take a look at the collection here.

 

The Art and Travels of Sigrid Rupp

When she wasn’t designing offices for Silicon Valley giants like Apple and IBM, Sigrid Rupp was busy traveling around the world, writing and sketching the scenes that caught her eye. From 1966 to 2003, she visited over 30 countries, traveling extensively throughout North America, Europe, and East Asia. With an eye for design in environments both natural and built, she meticulously documented her many travels in photographs, diaries and sketchbooks. Maybe a little different from the typical contents in our many collections that form the International Archive of Women in Architecture, but I think they help show who Sigrid Rupp was- always curious, always creating.

ms1997_006_rupptraveldiary_mexico1998
Sigrid Rupp sketching the view from an overlook in Guanjuato, Mexico.

Rupp developed her fascination with architecture and the built environment as a child growing up in post-war Germany in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Much of Europe was in the process of rebuilding from the devastation of World War II, and Rupp got to witness first-hand how modern architecture and urban planning could transform communities. At age 10 she moved with her family to California, and at 17 she enrolled at UC Berkeley to study architecture. In 1976, 5 years after receiving her architectural license, she founded her own firm, SLR Architects, in the San Francisco bay area, where she served as president until she closed the office in 1998.

ms1997_006_rupptraveldiary_alaska_2002
An excerpt from one of Rupp’s travel diaries, complete with a view out her tent on a lake in Alaska in 2002.

Rupp traveled and sketched extensively throughout her career, but after her retirement, she devoted more time to travels and to watercolor painting. Her watercolors of bay area landscapes were featured in several juried shows of the Pacific Art League of Palo Alto. She also began hosting a rotating art show at the Ravenswood Medical Clinic in East Palo Alto, where she had previously worked as project architect.

ms1997_006_ruppsketchbook_mexico_1998
Architectural details of La Paroquia in San Miguel Allende, Mexico
ms1997_006_rupp_travdiary_mongolia_2000_0728
Rupp’s sketch of a yurt during her visit to Mongolia in 2000

Rupp kept traveling and sketching until late 2003, when she was diagnosed with gastric cancer. After a six month battle, she passed away on May 27th, 2004, at age 61. In her obituary, her family writes that she was “was the life of the party at family functions where she told stories from her extensive travels and loved her champagne.” Though her adventures were cut short, her passion for seeing the world lives on in her travel diaries and sketchbooks, which can be seen in full in our reading room. The finding aid for the Sigrid Rupp Collection contains an extensive list of all the sketches, photographs and recollections from her travels. You can see a small sampling of items from her collection, including some of these drawings, on our IAWA digital collections site. Happy travels!

If Thou Hast Crushed a Flower

One of my favorite parts of working in Special Collections is that I’m always coming across something beautiful and unexpected that I never knew we had. Case in point: the Daniel Bedinger Lucas scrapbook. Opening the average looking notebook cover reveals page after page of intricate pressed flower arrangements surrounded by handwritten poetry and and prose. There’s even a few locks of hair delicately woven and stitched into some of the pages. What’s unexpected is how vibrant most of the flowers still look- it’s really hard to believe they were picked some 150 years ago. Despite being so delicate, most of the arrangements have held up exceptionally well.

 


So who was the man behind this beautiful book? Daniel Bedinger Lucas was born March 16, 1836, at “Rion Hall” in Charleston, Virginia (now West Virginia). He attended the University of Virginia, and then studied law under Judge John W. Brockenbrough of Lexington, Virginia. In 1859 he began practicing law at Charleston but moved the next year to Richmond. The scrapbook was compiled some time during this period in the early 1860s, when Lucas was working as a lawyer in Richmond.
At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 he joined the staff of General Henry A. Wise and took part in the Kanawha Valley campaign, but his physical disability from a childhood spine injury kept him from active service in the last years of the war. Toward the end of the war he ran the blockade to defend his friend John Yates Beall, accused of being a Confederate spy, but was unable to defend him against the charges. Beall was executed on Governors Island, New York.


Barred from the practice of law until 1871, due to restrictions on the service of ex-Confederates, Lucas turned to literature and became co-editor of the Baltimore Southern Metropolis. At this point his writing became more than just a hobby, and many of his poems were published in this magazine. Lucas’s volumes of poetry include The Wreath of Eglantine (1869) and Ballads and Madrigals (1884). He wrote three plays about the Civil War. His books include The Memoir of John Yates Beall (1865) and Nicaragua, War of the Filibusters (1896). He was known as the “poet of the Shenandoah Valley.”

In 1869, Lucas married Lena Tucker Brooke, of Richmond. Their only child, Virginia, was born in 1873. He reentered the practice of law in 1871 and took a prominent role in the Democratic party politics of West Virginia, acting as Democratic elector in the elections of 1872 and 1876, to the legislature in 1884 and 1886, and as a member of the supreme court of appeals from 1889 to 1893. He died at Rion Hall in Charleston on June 24, 1909.

The entire scrapbook is scanned and can be seen online here. I will leave you with one of his many poems from the scrapbook titled “If Thou Hast Crushed a Flower”
If thou hast crush’d a flower
the war may not be blighted;
If thou hast quenched a lamp
once more it may be lighted
But on thy harp, or on thy lute
the string which thou hast broken
shall never in sweet sound again
give to thy touch a token!

Ms1995-012_Scrapbook_Spread081

Panoramas of Campus to Immerse Yourself in the Not-too-distant Past

Panorama of the Duck Pond, from 1995

This week I wanted to share a small collection of panoramic photographs that were taken of various locations around the Virginia Tech campus back in 1995 (and a couple from 2000). The photographs were made by University Relations, and although they were taken recently (well, relative to most of our collections!) they were still captured non-digitally on film and given to us as oversized 2.5″ X 16″ photographic prints. Seeing a flat 360 degree view is one thing, but once we scanned them and installed a panoramic viewer on our Special Collections Online site, they really came to life in a very immersive way. You can see the above picture of the Duck Pond with the viewer here.

Spring Graduation at Lane Stadium, 1995

Most of the photos will look pretty familiar, with one noticeable difference being the smaller stands in Lane Stadium with roughly 15,000 less seats. You can immerse yourself in the 1995 Spring Commencement ceremony here. Another would be the absence of Torgersen Bridge behind the Pylons in this view of the Drill Field. Torgersen Hall and the bridge over Alumni Mall were not completed until 2000.

You can see all the panoramic photos in this collection here.

But I’ll leave you with one more panorama here, a vertigo-inducing shot from the floor of the War Memorial Hall foyer looking straight up at the vaulted ceiling. This one might best be seen without the viewer!

Ceiling of the War Memorial Hall foyer