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Snapshots of WVU in the 1960s, Part 3, Towers Residence Halls

Jane Metters LaBarbara
May 21, 2018

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

In the course of researching and preparing for this blog series of historical photography of WVU in the 1960s, I sometimes discovered material documenting inaugural moments, such as the opening of Towers 1 and 2, as will be shown here.  The construction of the Towers in Evansdale was part of a building initiative in the 1960s that transformed much of the campus, resulting in the Creative Arts Center, the Forestry Building, and the Mountainlair. 

When these new student residence halls opened in Fall, 1965, the University News Service sent a photographer to document the activities involved with the inception of this building complex designed for 900 students.  His or her photography work was then filed, maintained, and ultimately delivered decades later to the History Center at WVU Libraries.  Cataloging work on the negatives in this collection has enabled me to create this blog series, and as indicated in a previous installment, the preservation of the original negatives means I can work with high quality source material that renders subject matter with clarity and detail.

The first three images are from a file labeled “Twin Towers, First Student”.  From the title of this file we can plausibly deduce that these photos were shot on opening day, although we can’t determine who the “first student” is with only this evidence at hand.


Students inside Towers Residence Halls, 1965

Opening day, Towers residence halls, September 1965.
(Photograph from A&M 5188, West Virginia University,
News Service, negative file 00239.)
(Click image to view larger version)

The incomplete construction work to be seen in the background further corroborates the chronology of this image to the opening day.


Students moving into Towers residence halls, 1965

Opening day, Towers residence halls, September 1965.  (Photograph from
A&M 5188, West Virginia University, News Service, negative file 00239.)
(Click image to view larger version)


Students and staff gathered at a desk during the opening day of Towers residence halls, 1965

Opening day, Towers residence halls, September 1965.  (Photograph from
A&M 5188, West Virginia University, News Service, negative file 00239.)
(Click image to view larger version)

The stacks of handbooks for women students (with illustrated cover) on the table, and the subjects in the photo, suggest that this image is documenting registration in the nine-story north tower, which was designated for women.


Two female students in a dormitory room at WVU, 1966

Dormitory room, north tower, January 1966. (Photograph from
A&M 5188, West Virginia University, News Service, negative file 00471.)
(Click image to view larger version)

While the first three photos in this blog appear to have a documentary purpose, this photo, shot at a later date, was clearly designed for publicity.  Can one imagine the average dorm room being this free of clutter?


Mr. James Watkins (center), standing with two other people, 1967

Mr. James Watkins (center), Head Resident of Twin Towers, June 1967.
(Photograph from A&M 5188, West Virginia University,
News Service, negative file 00649.)
(Click image to view larger version)

James Watkins, the head resident of Twin Towers in the first year of 1965-1966, is pictured here in his office.  Other Towers staff for the first year included Priscilla Haden, Associate Head Resident; Jean Benson, Dietitian and Executive Housekeeper; and 18 graduate assistants, 20 undergraduate assistants, and 3 night supervisors.


Sources consulted:

The Twin Towers, West Virginia University, Opening Fall, 1965 [commemorative booklet], 1965.

West Virginia University, Symbol of Unity in a Sectionalized State, by William T. Doherty, Jr. and Festus P. Summers, 1982.

The WVU Woman, A Handbook for and about the Women Students of WVU, 1965-1966, West Virginia University Bulletin, August, 1965.

For related web pages, see:
Snapshots of WVU in the 1960s, Part 1, The Computer Center
Snapshots of WVU in the 1960s, Part 2, Wise Library


Read All About It! New Books at the West Virginia and Regional History Center

Jane Metters LaBarbara
May 11, 2018

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian

We’re always looking for new books to add to the West Virginia and Regional History Center Reading Room Collection.  Recently we added four new books we thought our patrons would enjoy.

Lauren Pond’s Test of Faith:  Signs, Serpents, and Salvation, is a photographic documentation of one man’s devotion as displayed through his belief in snake handling.

Cover of book Test of Faith, showing a snake on a man's shoulder

Pentecostal snake handling stems from the Gospel of Mark, 16:18. “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.”  King James Version (KJV).

Ms. Pond, an award winning photographer, closely followed the career of Jolo, West Virginia pastor, Mack Wofford.  She photographed Pastor Wofford during services while handing snakes, and when he died of a venomous snake bite in 2012.  Her book both examines and eulogizes Pastor Wofford and his faith.

Cover of book What You are Getting Wrong about Appalachia, showing trees and the silhouettes of people upside-down

Author Elizabeth Catte has caused a stir with her new book, What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia.  Often described as a retort to J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, Catte talks passionately about Appalachia and how those outside the region interpret it.  Catte is a public historian, a writer and director of Passel Historical Consultants, which she describes as a “full service firm specializing in socially-conscious community history.”  She can also add a new role to this line up, editor-at-large for WVU Press.

Following the 2016 election, Catte found herself answering questions about Appalachia posed by people in her new home in the state of Texas.  Media reports on Appalachia’s “forgotten tribe” of white workers and other oft-repeated inaccuracies inspired her to talk back with this boldly titled book.

Cover of book The Whiskey Rebellion and the Rebirth of Rye, showing a bottle over mountains

The Whiskey Rebellion and the Rebirth of Rye: A Pittsburgh Story by authors Mark Meyer and Meredith Meyer Grelli.  Historically, whiskey was among the first of the distilled liquors produced in the earliest days of the nation.  Farmers distilled their surplus grains, such as corn, barley, wheat and rye, in order to make whiskey.  In 1791, President George Washington established a tax on whiskey, and all distilled liquors.  The revenue from this tax was to raise funds to pay off Revolutionary War debts.  However, taxation did not sit easily with farmers.  The protests on the “whiskey tax” that followed has been referred to as the Whiskey Rebellion.  Western Pennsylvania, and what is now north-central West Virginia, was heavily involved in the Whiskey Rebellion. One of Morgantown’s earliest attorneys, Col. William McCleery, who fought under Gen. Washington during the Revolutionary War, was appointed Monongalia County’s collector of internal revenue.  The protests became so heated that a mob of thirty men from Pennsylvania rode into Morgantown with plans to kidnap McCleery.  Faced with the common form of vigilante justice at the time, tarring and feathering, McCleery beat a hasty retreat out his back door, resigned his position, and escaped.

Using the history of whisky and the Whiskey Rebellion as their inspiration, the authors, co-founders of Wigle Whiskey, a family owned and operated distillery based in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, explore rye whiskey’s revolutionary origins in western Pennsylvania.  They also look at the role of Gilded Age robber barons in developing the rye industry, and the re-emergence of craft distilling in the twenty-first century. Their book includes an illustrated guide on how to make rye whiskey as well as several cocktail recipes.

Cover of book The News Untold

The News Untold: Community Journalism and the Failure to Confront Poverty in Appalachia by Michael Clay Carey is among the new titles now available from the WVU Press.  Carey’s book is described as explaining “how a lack of constructive news coverage of economic need can make it harder for the poor to voice their concerns.”  Carey’s book takes a look at the “critical and inclusive news coverage of poverty at the local level,” and how it can “help communities start to look past old stereotypes and attitudes and encourage solutions that incorporate broader sets of community voices.”

In some regards, readers may see two of the books in this post, The News Untold, and What You Don’t Know About Appalachia, as sharing perspectives.  Carey’s perspective is not all that different from Catte’s view.  Both look at the perceived poverty of the region, both argue that new approaches are needed when discussing Appalachia.  Both books also stem from a media perspective.  How is Appalachia portrayed by the media?  What topics are covered when reporting on Appalachia?  These are just some of the questions that come into play when talking about the region.  Carey’s book urges us to “look past old stereotypes,” of poverty, pointing out that news coverage at the local level can rewrite that discussion; while Catte urges a greater understanding of the region and its people that is also reliant on looking beyond tired stereotypes.

Books, like these, are an important part of our collections.  They can inspire, inform, amuse, and restore us. To see these books, or others on similar topics, or to see the William McCleery papers, stop by the West Virginia and Regional History Center.  We’ll be glad to help.





MayDay: Saving Our Archives – and Precious Things

Jane Metters LaBarbara
May 1, 2018

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

The Society of American Archivists has designated May 1 as MayDay, a day to reflect on preparedness in the event of a disaster (big or small) and to take a simple action to ensure the protection of collections. Preservation is an important aspect of the work we do at the West Virginia & Regional History Center and essential to the long term care of the collections in our stewardship. Following some best practices enables us to minimize the risk of damage to materials and help ensure that the history of West Virginia & central Appalachia will be around for researchers for many, many years to come.

May Day logo for May 1, 2018, showing weather hazards

Although MayDay was conceived for institutions, individuals should also consider how prepared they are in the event of a disaster.  Take a moment to consider your personal belongings, your cherished treasures that might be at risk.  What are the three most precious things that you own and where are they located?

Risk management means being aware of possible problems and trying to correct them in advance to minimize or prevent damage.  Following some basic preservation methods will make a big difference.

  • Proper storage and physical environment can prolong the life of materials. Are you storing your items in a stable place?  Is there a risk for physical damage?  Basements and attics, where we store many things, may not be a good places for storage if the temperature and humidity fluctuate.
  • Temperatures should be cool – no higher than 70 degrees. Humidity levels should between 30-50%.  Consistency is best.  It is the fluctuations that cause the most damage.
  • Exposure to dust and insects are also problematic.
  • Acid free folders and boxes are ideal if possible.

Archival document case, archival folder, and document on table

Hygrometer/thermometer showing 70 degrees and 37 percent humidity

In this day and age, we must also consider digital records.  This includes items that you have scanned or things that are “born digital” like digital photographs or music and video files.  Digital preservation is an active process. With digitized or born digital material, keep in mind that file formats change – anyone still using Word Perfect? Lotus?

  • For these records to be accessible in the future, you will need to periodically migrate them to the newest format.
  • Also, you need to spot check files for damage – digital files can degrade over time which is called “bit rot.” Hard drives may fail over time as well.
  • Keeping multiple copies will give you a backup if some files are corrupted or lost. You could consider an external hard drive, some cloud storage, and/or on your computer hard drive if possible.

Last but not least, label everything!  It will be frustrating for you and the future keepers of your material if it is not identified.  For your digital items, create a system of file names that records information about the content.

Think back to your list of three most precious belongings – what can you do by the end of the week to make them safer?

Although I work in archives, I recently had to take stock of my own precious things.  When I was young, I kept photo albums and did some primitive scrapbooking.  The oldest of these albums is about 35 years old.  I had not looked at it and others for over a decade.  And when I recently did, I knew that I needed to take action right away if I wanted to save this bit of my personal history.

Inside front cover of photo album

Pages in an album, showing photos and clippings

This kind of photo album was ubiquitous in the 1970s and 1980s. They had sticky pages with plastic sheets covering each page.  The adhesive is acidic.  The yellow discoloration from that acid was readily apparent in my album.  I was lucky that it did not seem to be affecting the coloring of my photos – yet.  I also thought there might be signs of mold growth.  After talking to a colleague, it turns out it is more likely that the orange/brown spots that pepper the pages and cover is foxing. Foxing is pale, brownish, diffuse spots that appear on paper or other surfaces, probably either from mold or fungus growth, metallic impurities in the paper, or other conditions in combination with dampness.

Close-up of album/scrapbook pages showing foxing

All things considered, I knew I needed to get the photographs and documents that I wanted to save out of this album right away.  Fortunately, my photographs were not permanently stuck to the pages and they came off easily.  I feel confident that they would have been, had I not realized the problem in time. If you do have photos stuck to the pages, the Smithsonian Institution Archives has created a video with tips for using plain dental floss for removing them. I am now storing my photos in a flat archival box. In the future, I might place them in an archival quality photo album. I actually labeled them all the way back in 1984!

Detailed information is available from the Northeast Document Conservation Center or the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts with up to date standards for preservation of physical and digital materials.  The ALCTS section of the American Library Association has a website called “Ask Donia.”  You can submit questions about specific items and/or preservation problems.  You can also read answers to previous questions.  Our staff at the West Virginia & Regional History Center is also available to lend advice and guide you to the help you need.

This MayDay, I hope you will take stock of your precious things and think about what you can do to protect them.


Everettville Mine Disaster in Their Own Words

Jane Metters LaBarbara
April 30, 2018

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

Today marks the anniversary of the Everettville Mine Disaster.  On April 30, 1927, there was an explosion at the Federal No. 3 mine owned by New England Fuel and Transportation Company, in Everettville, Monongalia County, WV. One hundred and eleven people were lost, and nine were saved. Below are the newspaper headlines for the following week–the disaster happened at around 3:30 PM so it didn’t make the evening edition of the Morgantown Post on April 30–the results of the Great Mississippi Flood took up a lot of front page space that day. The Everettville mine disaster was reported in a number of local newspapers and even made national news. 

May 1, 1927 headline: 92 Die in Mine Explosion

May 2, 1927 headline: Rescue Teams Fail To Locate Entombed Miners

May 3, 1927 headline: Six More Bodies Taken From Everettsville Mine

May 4, 1927 headline: Rescue Workers Push to Newer Area Seeking Bodies of Entombed Miners

May 5, 1927 headline: Two More Bodies Found in Everettsville Mine

One account of the disaster comes from John Spiker, a mine worker about whom we know little more than that he was present at the mine on April 30, 1927. He recounts his experience in a letter dated November 7, 1927 which he wrote to his grandfather, Watson Tenney.  Danny Lee Tenney donated a photocopy of this letter to the WVRHC, and it is available to researchers as A&M 3931.

Excerpts from Spiker’s letter:

I worked 62 hrs after the explosion without a stop or sleep then slept 8 hrs and worked 56 more.

I had just come out of the mine about two minutes before it blew up and was standing in one end of the lamp house (which stood between the two mouths of the mine) talking to a man in the mine on the telephone when it blew up.

The lamp house is built on tile blocks and the force of the blast smashed both ends of the building and threw me clear into the other end of the building from where I was standing.

I limped to my feet and looked out at the pit mouths and they were belching a red flame of fire which shot strait out of each for at least 300 feet.

There were 9 of us there all within 50 feet of each other and the lamp man and I were the only ones who escaped as five of them were killed outright and two died later on.

There was one section which was isolated from the rest of the mine and I felt sure there were some men in there who were still alive.

I took two men with me and put on gas masks and took a bunch of masks with us and when we got into the back end of this section sure enough there were nine live men in there.

We put the masks on them and brought them out alive.

He continues his letter with a description of the slow rescue efforts in which he participated; he said it took nearly six weeks to get everyone out. After the recovery work was finished and the mine reopened, Spiker chose not to continue working there. The mine continued to operate through at least 1951.

Federal No. 3 Mine Tipple

This image, labeled Federal No. 3 Mine Tipple and dated 1937, may be the same No. 3 involved in the disaster ten years earlier. This image is part of the Historic Pittsburgh collections.

One of the men who died in the mine disaster was Henry Russell, an immigrant from Scotland. Trapped in the mine after the blast, he wrote notes to his family and stored them in his lunchbox before he died.

In 2007, Diana Jones was asked to write as song for the memorial event to commemorate the 8th anniversary of the disaster. She wrote “Henry Russell’s Last Words” based on the notes that Mr. Russell had written to his father and wife. You can read a transcription of his last words and the lyrics to the song here: https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/miner-s-dying-words-create-song-of-tribute-1-1418801. His words give a vivid and touching picture of who he was in his final hours.

Everettville Mine Disaster highway marker sign

Today, there is a historical marker, a miners’ memorial, and a park near Federal Mine No. 3; the memorial lists the names of all the miners who perished there throughout the mine’s history. You can also see that list of names here: http://www.wveha.org/wveha2/Victims.


Additional Resources:

A&M 3931, John Spiker, Letter Regarding Everettville Mine Disaster, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries. http://archives.lib.wvu.edu/repositories/2/resources/3040 Accessed April 26, 2018.

Jones, Diana.  2014.  “Writing ‘Henry Russell’s Last Words’.”  Goldenseal: West Virginia Traditional Life 40, no. 3 (Fall): 48-49.

“Miner’s dying words create song of tribute.” The Scotsman. 29 April 2007. Web. 26 April 2018. https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/miner-s-dying-words-create-song-of-tribute-1-1418801

Miner’s Memorial Park Website, from the Everettville Historical Association: http://www.wveha.org/history/Historical_Significance

Spohr, Eleanor. “Everettville Mine Disaster.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 03 February 2012. Web. 26 April 2018.



Snapshots of WVU in the 1960s, Part 2, Wise Library

Jane Metters LaBarbara
April 17, 2018

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

This blog will continue to survey photographs from an archival photograph collection received by the History Center from University Relations. It contains photos showing people, activities, and events at West Virginia University from the 1960s to more recent times.  This installment of the series will focus on photos that document Wise Library (which is now encompassed within the Downtown Campus Library).  Although some of these photographs have probably been seen before, the acquisition of this collection with all of its original negatives will now privilege researchers and viewers with source material of the highest quality.

West Virginia University has had a library since its inception in 1867.  First located in Woodburn Hall, it moved to Martin Hall in 1890, and then to what is now Stewart Hall in 1902.  Then in 1931 the library was moved to where the Downtown Center Library (DCL) is currently located, although its footprint as Wise Library is substantially smaller than that of the DCL, since the construction project resulting in the DCL (1999-2003) extended the perimeter of the building outward from the facade of Wise.


Facade of Wise Library at WVU, May 1967, with students in foreground

Facade of Wise Library before its envelopment by the Downtown Center Library project, May 1967.  The facade and interior lobby of this 1931 building were retained intact within the DCL, as well as most other features of the building.  (Photograph from A&M 5188, West Virginia University, News Service, negative file 00632.)


Multiple students studying in corner of reading room, Wise Library, May 1965

Corner of reading room, Wise Library, May 1965.  The furnishings are contemporary.  (Photograph from A&M 5188, West Virginia University, News Service, negative file 00067.)


Four students studying at a table in corner of reading room, Wise Library, May 1965

Corner of reading room, Wise Library, May 1965.  (Photograph from A&M 5188, West Virginia University, News Service, negative file 00067.)


Reading room in Wise Library, full of students studying at tables, March 1966

Reading room in Wise Library, March 1966.  The chairs and tables in evidence date back to the opening of Wise in 1931.  These furnishings are still in use to this day.  (Photograph from A&M 5188, West Virginia University, News Service, negative file 00352.)


Librarian or student worker using magnifying glass to study pile of photos at the West Virginia and Regional History Center, Wise Library, May 1967

Librarian or student worker at the West Virginia and Regional History Center, Wise Library, May 1967.  Founded in 1930, the Center has now been in operation for almost 90 years.  Historical photographs like the ones this employee is working with can be viewed and researched today in the History Center’s online photograph catalog, West Virginia History OnView.  (Photograph from A&M 5188, West Virginia University, News Service, negative file 00483.)


Sources consulted:
The Charles C. Wise Library, A Retrospective, by Luke Boso, undated.
West Virginia and Regional History Collection Newsletter, Vol. 15, No. 1, Fall 1999.


For related web page, see:
Snapshots of WVU in the 1960s, Part 1, The Computer Center