News Blog

Dr. James Vance Boughner and His Morgantown Home

Jane Metters LaBarbara
July 15, 2019

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

The reference staff at the West Virginia & Regional History Center answers all kinds of interesting questions and it is always an extra pleasure when we can help patrons find that piece of information that they are very eager to find.  I had that experience this week.

A patron arrived at the reference desk seeking information on James Vance Boughner, MD, and even more specifically, details regarding Dr. Boughner’s house that previously sat on North High Street in Morgantown.  The patron lived in the upper floors of the house in the 1960s.  He was certain that the house was altered at some time in the past because it was asymmetrical in shape and sat right next to the street. He wanted to know when that had taken place. 

Portrait of James Vance Boughner as an older man
Portrait of James Vance Boughner from J.M. Callahan’s the History of West Virginia: Old and New, page 170.

I searched the Center’s Guide to Archives and Manuscripts and found that we had a moderate size collection of Dr. Boughner’s papers. I was also able to find him in several publications by using the in-house Personal Name Index (not available online).  The patron had already found some photos of the Boughner home online, and with the help of Center staffer Jessica Eichlin, we found more in the Center’s online photographs database, West Virginia History OnView.  

Black and white image of a home with many trees in the front yard
The Boughner home as pictured in J.M. Callahan’s the History of West Virginia: Old and New, page 171.  It was originally built in 1852.

A little background on James Vance Boughner, who turns out to be an interesting figure in West Virginia history.  His biography is included in James Morton Callahan’s the History of West Virginia: Old and New.  (A transcript of his write up is available online.) Boughner grew up in Greensboro, Pennsylvania.  He trained as a physician, read medicine with a Dr. Stephenson, attended the Cincinnati Medical College, finishing in 1837, and later received his M.D. from the Philadelphia College of Medicine in 1847.  He married Louisa Brown and they had six children that they raised in Brown’s Mill in Monongalia County, Virginia (at the time.)  Callahan states that the “arduous duties of general practitioner of medicine in a country district” took a toll on his health so Dr. Boughner retired from medicine and moved to Morgantown in 1859.

From the start of the Civil War, Boughner was a staunch unionist.  He authored the resolutions against Virginia succession for Monongalia County and served as a delegate to the Wheeling Convention in May 1861.  He was recognized as an “able and fluent writer” that kept up pro-union sentiment in the county through his contributions to local newspapers.  After the war, he served as the internal revenue collector for the second district in the new state of West Virginia.  (Many of the materials in the Boughner papers relate to this work.)  He also served in the West Virginia legislature in the 1867-1868 term.  In his later years, his interest turned towards operating a 500 acre farm near Fairmont located twenty miles from his home in Morgantown. He died a couple months before his seventieth birthday in 1869 and was remembered for his optimism and “brilliant and scintillating wit.” 

Back to the question of the alteration of the Boughner house.  The home sat on North High Street in back portion of the lot now occupied by Panera Bread.  In the 1960s, it was a residence on the upper floors with a restaurant, the Snack Shack, in the basement. 

Street filled with cars and people, with large home and trees in the background.
Photo of the The Boughner house, ca. 1918, with cars lining up for an Armistice Day parade.  Note the difference in size of the side of the house near North High Street from the previous photo.  From West Virginia History OnView.
Photo of the corner of North High Street showing the Masonic Temple fronting on High Street and the Boughner house sitting on the back edge of the lot, ca. 1930. From West Virginia History OnView.

Because the patron was interested in a change in the structure, I suggested that we look at the Morgantown Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.  These maps were created to document the construction materials of buildings and were updated every few years.  They are excellent sources when researching the growth of a community.

The Center’s Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Collection covers a number of towns and generally dates from 1884 through 1934.  The earliest maps of Morgantown, 1892 and 1899, did not cover the area where the Boughner Home sat.  We found it in the 1904 map bordering a portion of North High about half the width of the rest of the street.

Map showing University, High, and Willey Streets, with color coded and labeled buildings.
Photo of a section of the 1904 Morgantown Sanborn Map, page 1, showing the outline of the Boughner house next to a very narrow North High Street at its intersection with Willey Street.  Trinity Episcopal Church was in the lot next to it at that time. Later the Masonic Temple was built on the site of Trinity.

When we looked at the 1906 Sanborn, the next year available for Morgantown, we could see that North High had been widened and the house had been “chopped off” on that side.  We found the answer!  It is only a short span of two years when the house was changed to accommodate the growing city streets.

Map showing High, Willey,and Spruce Streets, with color coded and labeled buildings.
Photo of a section of the 1906 Morgantown Sanborn Map page 4 showing a significantly altered Boughner home and a wider High Street.
Black and white photo of a two story home, with two men on the front porch.
Photo of the Boughner home, ca. 1965, showing students on the porch and the Snack Shack on the side. From West Virginia History OnView.  The house was razed in 1970. 

It was fascinating, fun, and extremely fulfilling to find this answer.  The patron was very happy to make this discovery.  I was too and I learned quite a bit about Dr. Boughner in the meantime.  Next time I go to lunch at Panera, I will have a different perspective on the property!


Picturing West Virginia

Jane Metters LaBarbara
July 1, 2019

Blog post by Catherine Rakowski, Administrative Associate, WVRHC.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Boston physician, amateur photographer and father of SCOTUS Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., described photography as “the mirror with a memory.”  In 1859 he believed that there would “soon be such an enormous collection of forms that they will have to be classified and arranged in vast libraries, as books are.”

Holmes’s forethought was correct. At the West Virginia and Regional History Center, over a million “photographic records” are among the treasures in our holdings, ranging from the earliest photographic images, daguerreotypes, to the current born-digital images.

On West Virginia Day, June 20, 2019, the History Center opened a new exhibit in the Davis Family Galleries located on the 6th floor of the Wise Library.  The title of the exhibit is “Picturing West Virginia: Early Photography in the Mountain State.”

This weblog will focus on a few items from the exhibit. They happen to be some of my favorites:   

Tabletop stereoscope viewer

As you enter the first gallery, on your left you will see a beautiful, antique, ca. 1865 tabletop stereoscope viewer with a stereo card on the easel shelf (see image above). Folded under the platform is a large magnifying lens.  When the viewer is folded down and magnifying lens is raised, the stereo card is replaced on the easel with a single print for magnified viewing. The viewer is now converted to a graphoscope (see image below). The base has several notches to adjust the level of the viewers, and the easel holding the image can be moved vertically and horizontally.

Graphoscope, side view

The framed photo on the wall over the stereo card case is my great-great aunt, Virginia Deskins, ca. 1910, holding a stereo card viewer in one hand and several cards in the other. My grandmother would be a little upset with me if I didn’t mention Aunt Ginny’s photo as one of my favorites.

Photo of woman seated outside, holding a stereoscope viewer

Before you enter Gallery II, the framed photo on the left wall is a 1908 “selfie” of photographer, James Green.  Using a piece of yarn, he attached one end to the camera shutter and tied the other end to his toe to trigger the shutter.

Photo of man darning sock, with text "If wife would only come back"

The photo shows James trying to darn his socks while missing his wife Edith, who was recovering from the birth of their daughter. Edith was also James’s photography assistant.

As you walk in to Gallery II you will hear the gentle tunes from a Victorian cabinet card album. The original tunes are from a music box inserted in the album’s back cover. There is a video loop on the tablet above the case which displays several other albums. The loop plays the music and shows the photos on selected pages of the album which is also in the case. Photo albums became all the rage in the 1860s, holding photographic remeinders of family and friends to be enjoyed for generations.    

Photo album pages, showing a portrait of a woman and a seated portrait of a man

There are many other fascinating photos, cameras, and equipment related to early photography in the exhibit. Please come and enjoy browsing the entire collection. Several items on display including the tabletop stereo viewer are on loan through the generosity of photographer Ron Rittenhouse.


Oliver P. Chitwood, Namesake of Chitwood Hall

Jane Metters LaBarbara
June 18, 2019

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

Oliver Chitwood as an older man, seated, holding a book

While working to make our card catalog for the President’s Office Archive more accessible, I came across microfilmed faculty application materials from the history department. These included Oliver Perry Chitwood’s application for work at WVU, as well as some correspondence between him and Dr. Purinton, then University President, who was recruiting Chitwood.

Typescript letter dated June 13, 1907 to O.P. Chitwood, inviting him to apply for a job.

I was surprised that WVU’s president reached out to Chitwood to fill a history professorship, rather than Chitwood having to job hunt—he must have been quite an impressive professor! I was also surprised by his response letter (see page 2, below), in which he asks that his current boss be made aware that Chitwood hadn’t been job hunting, “for I should not like for him to think that I am dissatisfied with my present position.”

Second page of a letter on Mercer University letterhead, signed by O.P. Chitwood

The application form itself was a product of its time. In addition to asking about education and teaching experience, it asked for date and place of birth, marital status, and more pointed questions like “What are your habits regarding the use of liquor and tobacco?” Chitwood wrote in “Do not use either.” He completed this application June 29, 1907. (We also have one that he completed about 11 days earlier—I am not sure why he sent two nearly identical applications.)

Piece of historical form with handwritten responses

In addition to his application, we also have a collection of his letters, many of which deal with his publications. He wrote quite a few books about colonial American and early American history. If you ever want to read correspondence that reveals what it takes to make a book, check out this collection! He has correspondence with colleagues about compiling and promoting books, letters about book revision and printing, and more. The contents list for the collection has yet to be converted from paper to digital format, but it is very detailed–ask one of our staff members if you would like to see it.

Page of the 1971 contents list for the Oliver Perry Chitwood Papers, listing his correspondence in the collection from 1907-1917

It was easy enough to confirm that this particular Chitwood was the man for whom Chitwood Hall was named.

Chitwood Hall, a brick building
Plaque on bricks, "Science Hall / 1893 / Spokes 1962"
Plaque on bricks, titled "Chitwood Hall" with historical information about the hall and the man it was named for.

The building has two plaques on its exterior (facing into the quad).  Though it is the third oldest building on campus, and Chitwood retired in 1946, the building was not named for Chitwood until 1972, a year after his death.  It was built in 1893 and known as Science Hall for almost 80 years. Today it forms one of the sides of Woodburn Circle, arguably one of the most photogenic spots on campus.


It’s a Good Hair Day!

Jane Metters LaBarbara
June 11, 2019

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

Having a good hair day? Or is it time for a new do?  Humans have been cutting, coloring, curling, and styling their hair since ancient times. This week the Center blog includes a sample of images that show shampoos, haircuts, hair dressers, barber shops, and beauty salons in West Virginia.  Enjoy!

Seated man wrapped in sheet, awaiting haircut, between two women

WVU Engineering student W. J. Brunner ready for a haircut, Morgantown, W. Va., ca. 1898. (id# 010330)

Woman dressing the hair of another woman, while another woman does the nails of a fourth woman.

Women doing hair and nails at the Eliz. P. Key Manicure Parlor in the Union Trust Building, Parkersburg, W. Va., 1907. (id# 007759)

Interior of a barbershop full of barbers and customers

Charley Wats and Charles R. Summers at the Barber Shop in Glady, W. Va., ca. 1910. (id# 030625)

Barber brushing man's hair

A man sits while a barber combs and styles his hair, likely in Harrison County, W. Va., ca. 1910. (id# 052302)

Man receiving a haircut outdoors while other men look on

Surveyor Samuel Garnett gets a haircut outdoors while others wait their turn. Garnett was hired to mark the West Virginia – Maryland border.  This image is circa 1911. (id# 040773)

Soldiers reading newspaper outside while waiting as outdoor barber combs another soldier's hair

Soldiers take a barber break at Camp Lee, Virginia, ca. 1917.  Men read while waiting their turn with the barber in a make-shift outside “shop.” Many West Virginians trained at Camp Lee for fighting in Europe during World War I. Most were members of the 313th, 314th and 315th Field Artillery Units. (id# 040891)

Barber standing in the interior of his shop

Barber in his shop at Upper Avis, Hinton, W. Va., ca. 1925. (id# 045827)

Man demonstrates washing a boy's hair over a bowl as group of boys watches outdoors

Boys learn proper grooming and shampooing techniques at the Boy’s State 4-H Camp at Jackson’s Mill, 1936.  (id# 026602)

Four women under hairdryers in a salon as male staffer looks on

Interior of Joe Ponka’s Beauty Shop, Morgantown, W. Va., 1937. Roberta Armstrong and Connie Linton are identified in the photograph.  (id# 000029)

African-american boys giving each other haircuts inside a barbershop

Residents give and get haircuts at the Industrial School for Colored Boys, Lakin, W. Va., 1948. (id# 013325)

Female student dresses the hair of a mannequin as two others look on.

Students at the Morgantown Beauty College practice on a mannequin head, ca. 1962.  E. Joy Lynch is pictured at left. (id# 010183)

Hairdresser combing woman's hair

Patty Watson at the hairdresser, Morgantown, W. Va., ca. 1963. (id# 010396)

Find more fun images like these in West Virginia History OnView, the WV & Regional History Center’s online photograph database.


West Virginia Day celebration to focus on early photography

Monte Maxwell
June 7, 2019

Two men standing in front of a saloon
Two unidentified men raise their mugs of beer outside a Tucker County saloon, ca. 1885.

If you’re on Facebook, twitter or Instagram, it’s impossible to miss the selfies people post to announce a night on the town, a trip to an exotic location or just a new pair of sunglasses.

Set aside the Internet and smartphones, and they’re simply following a social norm established more than 150 years ago. While Millennials are growing up on social media, the Civil War generation was the first to grow up with photography.

“Photography was an earth-shattering innovation in the mid-19th century, perhaps like the introduction of the computer or the cell phone,” said John Cuthbert, director of the West Virginia and Regional History Center. “It was introduced in the U.S. around 1840 and within a couple of decades people all over America were getting their pictures taken by itinerant photographers who would travel from town to town.”

West Virginia University Libraries and the WVRHC will use words and pictures to tell the story of early photography in America from 1840 to 1915 as part of their West Virginia Day program on June 20 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Ron Coddington, a leading authority regarding photography during the Civil War era, is the keynote speaker.

“During photography’s early years, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes ruled the portrait world. Then, on the eve of the Civil War, a curious new format landed in America – the carte de visite,” Coddington said.

Carte de visite photographs, or CDVs, were photographs on cards roughly the size of a baseball card that were exchanged and collected among friends and family.

“After hostilities began, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and sailors posed for their portraits,” Coddington said. “Countless millions of photographs were produced. Significant numbers of these most intimate and personal artifacts survive today. Some are finding a place among the iconic images of the war.”

In his talk titled “Cardomania! How Civil War photography became the social media of the 1860s,” Coddington will tell the story of Civil War portrait photographs and what became of them.

Festivities begin at 9 a.m. with a continental breakfast reception in the Milano Reading Room in the Charles C. Wise, Jr. Library. Coddington will speak at 10 a.m. Coddington is the author of four books of collected Civil War portraits and editor and publisher of Military Images magazine.

Following the keynote, an exhibit of early photographs from the WVRHC’s historical photograph collection will open in the Center’s Davis Family Galleries. Also, everyone in attendance will receive a limited-edition commemorative poster.

The program continues in the Downtown Campus Library Atrium. Stop by to get a slice of birthday cake and meet the speaker.

For more information, contact WVRHC Director John Cuthbert or Assistant Director Lori Hostuttler at 304-293-3536.