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WVRHC Staff Favorites

Jane Metters LaBarbara
October 16, 2017

American Archives Month & West Virginia Archives Month

Blog post compiled by Jessica Eichlin, Photographs Manager and Preservationist

October is American Archives Month and West Virginia Archives Month!  To celebrate, this post will look at some staff “favorites” from the collections at the WVRHC.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

 My favorite book that we have at the West Virginia and Regional History Center is found in the rare book room. It is an 1885 printing of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. It is one of my favorite books of all time, and Twain is my favorite author so it was really neat to see one of the first printings of the book.

Submitted by Savannah Rose, Graduate Assistant 

Stick from Stonewall Jackson’s Stretcher

 My favorite object in our holdings is the “stick” from the Roy Bird Cook Collection [A&M 1561]. It’s supposedly part of the stretcher that carried Stonewall Jackson off the battlefield after he was mortally wounded at Chancellorsville. We don’t really know this for sure, but Roy Bird Cook was an eminent historian, so we’ll take him at his word.

[Editor’s Note: The “stick,” as well as other items which belonged to Jackson, are in a Restricted collection, which means I can’t put a photo in this post. Just imagine an old stick.]

Submitted by Christy Venham, Reference Specialist

The Monticola

The Monticola, WVU’s yearbook, is one of my favorites because they offer a wonderful glimpse into student life.  Published from 1896-1943, 1947-1948, 1954-1986, 1992, and 2000, the yearbooks feature student and staff photos, club pages, student quotes, and stories about that year at WVU.

Submitted by Jessica Eichlin, Photographs Manager and Preservationist

Republican Congressional Committee Newsletter, July 12, 1965 from the Governor Arch A. Moore Jr. papers

 In context, this Republican Congressional Committee Newsletter cover illustrates Republican frustrations following the historic landslide election of Democrats to Congress and the White House in 1964, as well as President Lyndon Johnson’s strong influence in developing the Great Society legislation. More broadly, though, the political cartoon speaks to the importance of an independent, deliberative Congress, which remains just as important today.

Submitted by Danielle Emerling, Assistant Curator, Congressional and Political Papers Archivist

Person Dressed in Stork Costume

 I enjoy looking through all of the photos on OnView, but I especially love the ones that show the subject’s sense of humor.

Submitted by Amanda Young, Public Services Assistant

Surrender of Robert E. Lee

My favorite item at the History Center is the April 9, 1865 telegram that Senator Pierpont, of the Restored Government of Virginia, received from Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton announcing the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.

It’s amazing that this artifact survived, and that today we have a tangible reminder of this great moment in American history!

Handwritten message on paper with "U.S. Military Telegraph" printed at the top

It partly reads:

“9 p.m. Alexa[ndria] April 9 1865
This department has just recd official report of the surrender this day of Genl Lee and his army to Lt. Genl Grant on the terms proposed by Genl Grant Details will be given speedily as possible.
Edwin M. Stanton
Secy of War”

Submitted by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator for Archives and Manuscripts

The Embassy Girls, by Julia Davis

My favorite book in our reading room is The Embassy Girls by Julia Davis. She was the daughter of John Davis, the Ambassador to England during WWI. She wrote The Embassy Girls about her time as a teenager at the American Embassy in London after the war. She had a blast!

Newspaper clipping showing Miss Julia McDonald Davis

[Editor’s Note: The Embassy Girls is available in our reading room, call number 813.D294Y2, or available for checkout at the WVU Downtown Campus Library, call number E748 .D218 A3 1992.]

Submitted by Christy Venham, Reference Specialist

Star Trek: The Next Generation Score

My favorite things are Emmy-winning composer Jay Chattaway’s score for the penny whistle solo from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Inner Light” as well as a draft of the script for the episode. Both items can be found in A&M 3895, the Jay Chattaway Papers. Widely considered to be one of the best Next Generation episodes, “The Inner Light” features a beautiful and somber tune played by Captain Picard who experiences a lifetime on an alien planet – all within just twenty minutes.  As a longtime fan of Star Trek, I geek out just thinking about it and I’m honored to have a part of Star Trek history at the WVRHC.

Cover and sheet music for penny whistle solo from "The Inner Light"

Photos from Lori’s blog post on the Jay Chattaway Papers, on our site here.

Submitted by Lori Hostuttler, WVRHC Assistant Director

Cooking and Kitchen Brochures

Cooking and kitchen brochures are one of my favorites.  The introduction of jello as a new food and recipes for using it for meals with beautiful color illustrations, long legged appliances that are the latest on the market and how to use them, specialty products like baking powder and the ways it can be used included with recipes for food and cleaning. Plus there are the great illustrations that document the era of each brochure.

Colorful assortment of old cooking pamphlets

Submitted by Stewart Plein, Assistant Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

“When Big Profundo Sang Low C,” by Dave Kemp

In our archives, I found a sound file that I like so much, I actually put a shortcut to it on my desktop! It is a clip from our “It’s Wheeling Steel!” archives (A&M 3470, Wheeling Steel Radio Program Sound recordings and Records), which you can read about here.

The clip itself is from the time that the radio show featured “When Big Profundo Sang Low C” sung by Dave Kemp, a foundry worker in the Steubenville Works of Wheeling Steel.

I know nothing about music, so I have no idea if this guy actually gets down to low C, but I think the old radio sound and the song itself are charming, so I’d call it my favorite sound file.

Submitted by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator for Archives and Manuscripts

Porch Photos

I work with the photographs every day, so it’s impossible to pick one favorite, but I do love looking at turn-of-the-century porch photos on OnView.  These images often show the architectural features of the home, residents, and porch plants.  I especially love how they are decorated with curtains, comfy furniture, and pillows, turning them into an extension of the home.

Photo of a woman on a large and well-furnished porch

Submitted by Jessica Eichlin, Photographs Manager and Preservationist

Children’s Health Insurance Program memos, 1997-1998 from the Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV papers

While they are relatively recent history, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) memos illustrate the development of public policy and the various and complex actions, stakeholders, and considerations involved. When I use the memos in classes, students enjoy getting a behind-the-scenes look at the legislative process, a better understanding of the role legislative staff play, and a connection between the past and present.

Highlighted memos related to the creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Submitted by Danielle Emerling, Assistant Curator, Congressional and Political Papers Archivist

Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun

Part of my job involves dealing with artifacts in the Center’s collections. One of my favorite of these artifact is the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun awarded to West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller for his strengthening the relationship between the United States and Japan. I’ll admit that part of my fondness for this artifact is that it is so beautiful and unusual, but I also see it as a symbol of the connection between West Virginia and the wider world.

Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun - exterior of case, and medallions inside

Submitted by Laureen Wilson, Processing Archivist and Rare Books Collection Assistant

A&M 53: Stephen B. Elkins Papers

Not only was Elkins important in WV history, he was also involved in the history of New Mexico. Many of his papers describe his business and political dealings in that state. This collection also has the Cole Younger letter.

[Editor’s note: Cole Younger was an outlaw who associated with another famous outlaw, Jesse James.  The letter Christy references was written to Elkins by Younger while he was in the Stillwater Penitentiary.  For the dramatic story behind their relationship, see our 1999 newsletter, p. 4-6, found here. The Finding Aid for A&M 53 can be found on our website here.]

Submitted by Christy Venham, Reference Specialist

Seed Catalogs

I love the seed catalogs for their beautiful images.  Our earliest catalog is from 1883 with simple woodcut images of an ear of corn or a potato, but as time passes, color and photography begin to show us beautiful renditions of the seeds of flowers, fruits and vegetables offered for sale, but also for the great history of plant nurseries and plants that are no longer in production today.

Colorful assortment of seed catalogs

Submitted by Stewart Plein, Assistant Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

“Artistry in Dress,” 1929

My favorite object is a booklet in one of our collections from the WVU Extension Service. This collection includes dozens of these small, instructional booklets with subjects that range from cooking appetizing and artistic meals to interior decorating to making and maintaining the wardrobe. This particular booklet, titled “Artistry in Dress” was published by the New York State College of Home Economics at Cornell University in 1929. It is a fascinating glimpse into the clothing of the 1920s and even delves into theories of fashion design, helping women to select or make clothing that flattered their complexion and shape and corresponded to the latest fashions, without spending too much money. It even includes a color printed color chart. Dress history is one of my favorite things to study and I love the wealth of information hidden in this inconspicuous booklet. And the illustrations are hilarious! To me, this booklet represents a first-hand glimpse of fashion from another time and the diversity of ways in which the Extension Service was trying to make life better and more beautiful for the residents of West Virginia.

Pages of a booklet showing sketches of women's hairstyles and hat shapes

Submitted by Kara Gordon, Graduate Assistant


Stop by the WVRHC during the week to find your new favorite archival item!


WVU History Exhibit Now Online

Jane Metters LaBarbara
October 4, 2017

Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC; online exhibit by Savannah Rose, Graduate Assistant.

In celebration of WVU’s 150th anniversary, the WVRHC unveiled a new exhibit, Flowing Outward and Beyond: West Virginia University, on West Virginia Day.  The exhibit showcases WVU history through records and artifacts found in the Center’s collections, featuring WVU’s early days, student life, arts, sports, and more.

For those who cannot visit us in person, one of the WVRHC’s fantastic graduate assistants has created a digital exhibit that brings the story of the objects, text, and videos we have on display to a wider audience. We encourage you to check it out at https://wvuhistoryexhibit.wordpress.com/.

When I worked on my first exhibit at the Center, I saw how much effort and creativity my coworkers put into our yearly exhibits, and I wanted to be able to share the finished product with people far and wide (including my family members living over 1000 miles away).   Now, we have PDF versions of our previous 5 exhibits available, which you can find on our WV Day Exhibits webpage: https://wvday.lib.wvu.edu/exhibits.  Savannah tried something new this year, going beyond PDF slides to a web-based design.  I hope you all enjoy the upgrade as much as I do!

If this year’s digital exhibit whets your appetite, the exhibit can still be viewed in person at the WVRHC (in the back of the 6th floor, Downtown Campus Library); it will remain on display through May 2018.

Preview of WVRHC's 2017 WV Day poster

This year’s commemorative poster was a beautiful painting, and is one of my favorites!


The Dark Side of Butterflies: The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail in William Henry Edwards Butterflies of North America

Jane Metters LaBarbara
September 26, 2017

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian

The great West Virginia coal magnate, William Henry Edwards, was a butterfly lover at heart.  Edwards lived in Coalburg, a small town outside Charleston, and he is credited as the first to open the Southern Coalfields.  When coal shipments were threatened by the events of the Civil War, Edwards found a way to get his coal to market, shipping it by boat.  He was the first to ship coal for export to the North by water.  He was also the first to document the life cycle of butterflies throughout North America and his three volume set of books on butterflies is still considered to be the reigning masterwork on the subject. 

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is among the butterflies Edwards documented in our region.  The Tiger Swallowtail is easy to recognize.  It is among the largest American butterflies with bright yellow wings striped with black.

Colored sketches of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Edwards also documented variant forms or phases of the Tiger Swallowtail, among them is a variant with expanded black markings he referred to as dimorphism, defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online as “the existence of two different forms (as of color or size) of a species especially in the same population,” such as the Papilio Oregonia, shown below.

Colored sketches of Papilio Oregonia

Edwards also documents the Papilio Nigra, an even darker version of the swallowtail with broad expanses of black on its upper wings, shown below.

Colored sketches of Papilio Nigra

Finally, Edwards described a swallowtail with even darker coloring, rarely seen in our region yet widespread through the United States, the Giant Swallowtail, known by its scientific name, Cresphontes Cramer.  According to Edwards’ Synopsis of the Butterflies of North America, The Giant Swallowtail is an occasional visitor to West Virginia.

Eastern Swallowtail Butterfly on flower

I was fortunate to observe one of those occasional visits of the Giant Swallowtail this past weekend as one stopped to visit the flowers on my back porch.  The Giant Swallowtail is a giant indeed with a wingspan of nearly four inches.  Its dramatic coloration really catches the eye.  Although I have collected and observed butterflies for most of my life, this was the first time I had ever seen the Giant Swallowtail.  I could imagine the excitement William Henry Edwards must have felt when he observed one for the first time in the 1870s.  You can watch the video of my visitor here:

If you’d like to take a look at William Henry Edwards’ three volume masterwork, The Butterflies of North America, please contact the West Virginia and Regional History Center to view the books in the Rare Book Room.



The original blog post on Edwards’ Butterflies of North America:  https://news.lib.wvu.edu/2015/11/02/william-henry-edwards-and-the-butterflies-of-north-america/

Image for Papilio Oregonia: https://archive.org/stream/butterfliesofnor02edwa#page/n61/mode/2up

Image for Papilio Nitra: https://archive.org/stream/butterfliesofnor319edwa#page/n167/mode/2up/search/nitra

Cresphontes Cramer: https://books.google.com/books?id=_aJKAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA4-PT29&lpg=RA4-PT29&dq=william+henry+edwards+cresphontes&source=bl&ots=dA3U0mcbfO&sig=sTCUl3ayyYP0nBfe46SbI21O44o&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj2iszzgcHWAhVH6Z8KHfjTBIwQ6AEISjAK#v=onepage&q=william%20henry%20edwards%20cresphontes&f=false

Giant Swallowtail photograph and video: Stewart Plein


Conversations with Curators: Preserving the history of WVU’s first African-American graduates

Monte Maxwell
September 21, 2017

Jack Hodge

Jack Hodge, WVU’s first African-American graduate (Journalism, 1954) interviewing Thomas Fulton, head of Social Work Department, for The Daily Athenaeum.

The West Virginia University Libraries’ West Virginia & Regional History Center will host a discussion on preserving the history of WVU’s first African-American graduates on October 3 at 4 p.m. in the WVRHC in the Downtown Campus Library.

WVRHC Curator and Assistant Director Lori Hostuttler will highlight the archival materials documenting graduates Jack Hodge (first bachelor degree, 1954), Annette Chandler Broome (first female bachelor’s degree, 1957), Victorine Louistall Monroe (first master’s degree) and John Reuben Sheeler (first PhD.) who are part of the current exhibit Flowing Outward and Beyond: WVU 1867-2017.

Annette Broome

In 1957, Annette Broome (on the right) became the first known African-American woman to receive an undergraduate degree from WVU. She was the granddaughter of John Hunt. (L to R: Ruth Barnett, Lennie Wiley and Annette Chandler Broome)

In the informal tour and talk, Hostuttler will provide an overview of the objects and brief historical context, their significance to University community and beyond, and discuss the role of the archives in uncovering such hidden histories.

The event is presented in conjunction with  the 2017-18 Campus Read, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly. The book chronicles the experiences of two West Virginia women, Dorothy Vaughan and Katherine Johnson. Johnson attended WVU for one semester as a graduate student in 1940.

“It’s exciting that items from the Center’s collections that were chosen to represent the rich history of WVU during our 150th anniversary are also relevant to this year’s Campus Read. Artifacts like these are what document and verify the stories of lives lived and events that took place,” said Karen Diaz, interim dean of Libraries.

The WVRHC, located on the 6th floor of the Downtown Campus Library, collects, preserves and provides public access to materials that show the history and culture of West Virginia and the central Appalachian region. For more information visit wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu.


WVU Libraries holds film screening, opens exhibit about Vietnam War

Monte Maxwell
September 19, 2017

West Virginia University Libraries invites the campus community and the public to a screening and panel discussion of the West Virginia Public Broadcasting documentary “Vietnam: West Virginians Remember” at the Mountainlair’s Gluck Theatre on September 27 at 4 p.m. The Libraries welcomes all interested attendees and hopes many student veterans and campus veteran advocates will join us for this program.

A panel discussion will follow the film and feature WVPB Executive Producer Suzanne Higgins and WVU Associate Professor of History James Siekmeier. WVU Reed College of Media Shott Chair of Journalism and Assistant Professor Lois Raimondo will moderate the discussion.

The WVPB documentary tells the story of five West Virginia combat veterans who served in America’s most controversial war and explores the unanswered questions and haunting memories that remain. More than 36,000 Mountain State residents served in Vietnam, and of those 1,182 died. The WVPB documentary is a companion film to The Vietnam War series produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, which will premiere on PBS in mid-September.

“The process of making this film has taught me there are as many perspectives on the Vietnam War as there are those who served,” Higgins wrote in a producer’s note. “But I’ve heard shared experiences as well: fear, horror, loss, rejection, disillusionment, detachment, anger – and perseverance.”

A corresponding exhibition, “West Virginia and the Vietnam War: Selected Materials from the West Virginia & Regional History Center,” will open in the Downtown Campus Library’s Rockefeller Gallery on September 18 and remain on display through December 2017.

The WVRHC invites individuals with personal papers, photographs, and memorabilia related to the Vietnam War to speak with staff about donating materials to the Center for preservation. The Center can be reached by phone, 304-293-3536, or online at wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/contact.