The Political Record in Special Collections

Since the 2016 election was last week, I thought I’d take a look at what political items Special Collections has in our collections. We have papers of politicians, committees, and local interest groups from students at Virginia Tech to U.S. legislators. These are, of course, only a handful of the collections in Special Collections that you may find of interest if you desire to know more about politics and campaigning in the New River Valley, Virginia, and Appalachia, so come down to learn more or contact us with your queries!

William C. Wampler Congressional Papers, Ms1982-003

I mentioned previously the William C. Wampler Congressional Papers, when I discussed our offsite storage in A Look Behind the Glass Door… Part 2. A Virginia Tech graduate, Wampler served nearly two decades in the U. S. House of Representatives as a Republican from Virginia in the 1950s and 1960s-1980s. His collection contains legislative files, constituent letters, photographs, campaign material, and documents from the house committees he served. Photographs below depict just a portion of the 250-box collection while being inventoried.

Dana Harmon Papers, Ms2011-013

Special Collections is also home to the Dana Harmon Papers, who ran as a Republican in Tennessee in the early 20th century. The two-box collection contains letters, newspaper clippings, family papers, financial papers, and a scrapbook.

Virginia Tech Young Democrats Scrapbook, Ms2014-005

We also have collections related to the Democratic Party in Special Collections. First, we have the Virginia Tech Young Democrats Scrapbook. This collection contains a scrapbook put together by the Young Democrats for 1986 thru 1988. It contains photographs, event programs, newspaper clippings, certificates, newsletters, and local campaign materials. Below are items from the scrapbook.

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The following is the Virginia Tech Young Democrats Constitution, c. 1986:

Montgomery County [Virginia] Democratic Committee Records, Ms1989-061

Next is the Montgomery County, Virginia, Democratic Committee Records. Dating from 1961 thru 1994, this eight-box collection consists of minutes from the county Democratic conventions, correspondence with the state electoral board, committee meeting minutes, materials about candidates and campaigns, newspaper clippings about local political issues, polling and registration information, and assorted publications. While the bulk of the material focuses on the Democratic Party’s issues and candidates, there is also literature about Republican and independent/third-party candidates as well as the League of Women Voters.

 

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Chilhowie Milling Company and Benefits of Business Records

Here at Special Collections, one of our goals is to acquire materials that people use for research and personal interest. On the blog, we talk a lot about different formats of collections, different topic areas represented, and even different uses for those collections. When we work with researchers, especially students, we talk about collections as primary sources: first hand accounts of events, place, people, etc. One of the forms that these primary sources can take (and one we don’t talk about quite as much as personal letters or diaries, for instance), are business papers. But, collections of business papers (letters, ledgers, account books, and the like) can tell you plenty. This week, I thought I’d share one such collection: the Chilhowie Milling Company Correspondence from 1916 and 1917.

You can view the finding aid for this collection online, though it isn’t one we have had a chance to digitize in its entirety just yet. You may notice that the finding aid says this collection was previously processed, but in 2015, we did some additional organization and description. We don’t have the time and opportunity to revisit every collection, but when we can, we like to try and improve access. In this case, there was a brief description of the collection, but no contents list or detailed notes. Plus, we discovered that the collection had originally been described as the Chilhowie Mining Company Correspondence. The milling company corresponded with a number of mining and ore related companies, but its mission wasn’t mining.

So, why look at a collection like this? It can tell you about business in the context of local history (or local history in the context of a business)–in this case, a business that existed in Smyth County, Virginia for over a century. You can get a sense of what it took to run a large business, the corporate partners and/or suppliers needed, the raw materials gathered, and, in this, what it took to renovate and rebuild. In a two year period, the Chilhowie Milling Company wrote back and forth with nearly 40 different parties. To name a few specialized companies, this list included:

  • Bank of Glade Springs
  • B. D. Smith and Brothers Printers
  • Bristol Door and Lumber Company
  • Crystal Springs Bleachery Company
  • Ferger Grain Company
  • Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills
  • Gruendler Crusher and Pulverizing Company
  • Invincible Grain Cleaners Company
  • Millers National Insurance Company
  • Norfolk and Western Railway Company
  • State of Virginia Dairy and Food Division
  • Virginia Iron, Coal, and Coke Company
  • Virginia Leather Company
  • Virginia Portland Cement Company
  • Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company

In the cases of some other business history materials at Special Collections, there might be even more to be learned! Interested in the personnel rosters of a textile mill? The account ledgers of a local grocery store? Records from a Saltville salt supplier during the Civil War? You might want to stop by and see us. You never know what new tidbits are to found, what reflections you might find on a given economic situation, or even what family history you can discover in business records!

The Not-So-Fleeting (aka “Ephemeral”) Broadside

Over on the History of Food & Drink blog this month, I’ve been sharing some culinary-related ephemera. Since I’m writing for both blogs this week, I’m working on a theme and to that end, located some local history pieces to share. Not sure what ephemera is? That’s okay–we can help!

Ephemera: pl. n. (ephemeron, sing.) ~ Materials, usually printed documents, created for a specific, limited purpose, and generally designed to be discarded after use. (Thanks, Society of American Archivists for that helpful definition!) So, in other words, things like advertisements, flyers, tickets, or receipts. More specifically, this post is about broadsides. Not sure about that word either (we archivists sometimes like our fancy words!)?

Broadside: (also broadsheet), n. ~ A single sheet with information printed on one side that is intended to be posted, publicly distributed, or sold. Often times, broadsides take the form of flyers or advertisements for events…like these:

Floyd County Land Auction Broadside, 1859.
Floyd County Land Auction Broadside, 1859.
Crockett Mineral Springs Land and Equipment Auction Broadside, 1931.
Crockett Mineral Springs Land and Equipment Auction Broadside, 1931.

Okay, you’ve got me. The next one, since it has two sides, isn’t technically a broadside, but it is ephemeral and it is still a local auction advertisement!

Nelson R. Wilson Auction Notice, 1932. (Front)
Nelson R. Wilson Auction Notice, 1932. (Front)
Nelson R. Wilson Auction Notice, 1932. (Back)
Nelson R. Wilson Auction Notice, 1932. (Back)
Yellow Sulphur Springs Sale Broadside, 1943.
Yellow Sulphur Springs Sale Broadside, 1943.

As you may have noticed, some of these aren’t in the best of condition. Oddly enough (or perhaps not?), the oldest one, from 1859, is in the best shape. Paper-making processes in 1859 resulted in a product that was better designed to withstand time, more so than paper being made in the 1930s and 1940s. But remember, the reason we call these items ephemera is because of their expected short life span and transitory nature. Once they have fulfilled their purpose, on the surface, they may not seem to have enduring value. And to be honest, even in 1943, who would be thinking “Hey, I should really keep this flyer from that land and building sale that’s coming up this weekend in Yellow Sulphur Springs.” Lucky for us, someone did, because even ephemeral documents have research value!

Depending on the kind of information they contain, broadsides and other pieces of ephemera can be useful for a variety of reasons. Doing research on the history of a piece of land? Auction flyers might tell you about different sales over time. They’re also a great way to learn about local government officials, the closure of a business (and resulting disposition of property), and like the one from Crockett Mineral Springs, may even include handwritten notations. Broadsides don’t have all the answers, but they can often add another piece of the puzzle that is primary source research. Saved receipts can offer insight in the domestic and business purchases of an individual, family, or corporation. Tickets kept after decades can help show the change in prices or popularity of events. There are all kinds of great reasons you’ll find ephemera in special collections and archives, and it’s important to remember that your research can both take you in unexpected directions and benefit from unexpected discoveries.

So, next time you see a flyer on a building, in a community space, or on a campus, give it a brief glance. It might just be a future piece of history.

Literature in Southwest Virginia

Author Lucy Herndon Crockett wasn’t born in Southwest Virginia, but that doesn’t mean we can’t add her to the list of American writers with ties to the area. She moved to Seven Mile Ford (Smyth County), Virginia, later in her life in 1947, and worked on several books and manuscripts there. Born in Hawaii in 1914, she travelled as a speech writer and secretary for the chairman of the American Red Cross, and served as a Red Cross worker in World War II, spending time in the South Pacific and Asia. This time abroad was a strong influence the books she wrote during and after the war. Crockett was also an illustrator, creating drawings for her books and the books of others. One of her first publications, from the 1930s, was actually a short booklet on decoupage and decoration. Her interests were as varied as her subjects.

The gallery below includes images items in Special Collections, including an inscribed edition of Pong Choolie, You Rascal–! and typescripts with Crockett’s edits to published and unpublished manuscripts.

During her career, Crockett wrote 11 books and illustrated many more. Since 2011, Special Collections has acquired copies of all of her authored works (see the list below), though a few are still in cataloging. They should be available soon. Crockett’s audience varied. Lucio and His Nuong and That Mario are related books (Lucio and Mario are brothers) written for children and younger adults. Popcorn on the Ginzo, Teru, and The Magnificent Bastards reflect her experiences living in Asia after World War II, as well as her other later works, were for adult readers.

 

Bibliography
c.1930s?- Decoupage: The Pleasures and Perplexities of Decorating with Paper Motifs
1939- Lucio and His Nuong: A Tale of the Philippine Islands
1940- Capitan: The Story of an Army Mule
1941- That Mario
1949- Popcorn on the Ginzo: An Informal Portrait of Postwar Japan
1950- Teru: A Tale of Yokohama
1953- The Magnificent Bastards (Later made into a movie- The Proud and Profane)
1957- Kings Without Castles
1960- The Year Something Almost Happened in Pinoso
1963- Pong Choolie You Rascal!
Unpublished manuscript, dated 1972- “Bus Station Blues”

 

You can read more about the collection and Lucy Herndon Crockett in the finding aid online. You can also visit us to see more of the collection. There are many authors with connections to our area, and Crockett isn’t the only about whom we have papers and manuscripts–we’ve recently acquired materials by and about Sherwood Anderson, for example. However, Crockett is a lesser-known name in many circles. By preserving and providing access to these papers, we can offer a little insight into her creative experience, and hopefully, introduce her to a new audience in a new century.

Montgomery County (Virginia): A 1784 Land Survey

Montgomery County, Virginia, wasn’t always what it is today. It used to be much, much, MUCH larger. A 1784 land survey in our collections show a portion of it that reached as far as Ohio, at one time.

Ms2011-023, Land Survey, Montgomery County, Virginia, 1784
Ms2011-023, Land Survey, Montgomery County, Virginia, 1784

The text at the top reads as follows:

I certifee that this is a Draught of thirty two thousand acres of Land Surveyed for M. Levi Hollingsworth merchant of Philadelphia in the year 1784, situate on Guyandotte river which falls into the ohio river between the great Ranhaway river, and the Caintucky river, on warrants and orders of Survey  (?) from the Land office of Virginia, which warrants with a draught of each thousand acres, and numbered as set down in this draught are returned to the Register Generals office for the said State of Virginia, that the said thirty two thousand acres are surveyed in thirty two Tracts of one thousand acres each in the manner herein delineated, that the whole of the titles are Indisputable. This Land is situated in a most agreeable Climate about thirty nine degrees north Latitude, is fertil well Timbered and waters, and produces many kind of grove(?). Tobaco, Hemp Peas. The river that passes through the Land is navagable into the Ohio, from which all produce can be taken to the best marketts by water, this Country abounds in fish and fowl, and is situated near that (?) and fertile settlement of Caintucky. that Tract of Land is well Timbered with Oak, Hickory, Walnut ash yew, is covered with under growth with Cain and pappaw, and is well watered with (?) (?) Springs.

In actuality, this land covers part of what we would now consider West Virginia. The Guyandotte River breaks away from the Ohio River at the border near Huntington, WV, not far from the Kentucky border. It’s not all that close to our modern Montgomery County, but it does show us how the name, location, and identity of a place can change dramatically with the growth of a nation.

You can read more about this land survey and then-owner of the property, Levi Hollingsworth, in the finding aid online. And if you’d like to see and learn more about historic Montgomery County, we have maps, books, and manuscripts that just might interest you. Feel free to stop by!