News Blog

WVRHC receives fifth NEH grant to digitize historical newspapers

Monte Maxwell
September 18, 2019

Picture of a front page of a newspaper

This image is an example of the searchable content available on the Chronicling America website.

The West Virginia University Libraries’ West Virginia & Regional History Center has received a $201,917 grant – its fifth from the National Endowment for the Humanities – to continue digitizing newspapers published in West Virginia from 1790 to 1923.

The award is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program, a collaboration between the NEH and the Library of Congress to enlist libraries and institutions from around the country to create a digital database of historical United States newspapers. This grant brings the NEH’s total funding of the WVRHC’s efforts to $968,000.

“We are honored that the NEH recognizes the tremendous value of the historical newspapers archived in the WVRHC,” WVRHC Director John Cuthbert said. “Their support speaks volumes to the instrumental roles the Mountain State and its citizens played in the formation and growth of our nation.”

The Chronicling America website – chroniclingamerica.loc.gov – provides access to more than 15 million newspaper pages from 1789 to 1963. So far, the WVRHC has contributed 400,000 pages from more than 50 historic West Virginia newspapers. And, because of this grant, another 100,000 pages will soon be added to the site.

WVRHC Curator Stewart Plein said this round of newspapers focuses on two periods of great upheaval in West Virginia history that have national implications – the Civil War and the Mine Wars.

“The struggles of West Virginia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were the struggles of the nation,” Plein said. “West Virginia was at the crossroads of American history during these periods and the state’s newspapers serve as a compendium of Civil War and labor history in the United States.”

The Eastern Panhandle counties of Jefferson and Berkeley were heavily engaged during the Civil War in battle and conflict. Plein cites three incidents that had major implications:

  • John Brown’s 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry ignited a firestorm that drove the country into the Civil War.
  • The Battle of Charles Town in 1863 saw the Confederates victorious, but it would fall back into Union hands for the rest of the war.
  • The hotly contested town of Martinsburg bore a heavy toll during the war as it was captured and recaptured a total of thirty seven times, with control constantly shifting between the Confederacy and the Union.

“The strategic locations of these towns made this area a hotbed of activity throughout the war,” Plein said.

A half century later, in the southern coalfields, Mingo and Logan counties became the epicenter of labor unrest and spurred a national debate on labor, unions, job safety and security.

“The mine wars of Paint Creek, Cabin Creek, the Battle of Blair Mountain, and the shootout at Matewan exposed the poor work and living conditions of miners and their desire for a better way of life for themselves and their families,” Plein said.

Fueled by an initial $266,000 grant in 2011, the WVRHC began by concentrating on the Wheeling Intelligencer, which they identified as the most significant newspaper for the time period. The only daily newspaper being published in western Virginia at the start of the Civil War, it held anti-slavery and pro-Union stances and supported the statehood movement.

With the next three grant cycles, the WVRHC widened their scope to include newspapers from around the state and incorporate reporting from both sides of the Civil War conflict and issues such as the growing antebellum conflict between eastern and western Virginia, West Virginia’s statehood movement and establishment, West Virginia’s 1872 Constitution, Reconstruction and the United States’ Centennial.

The WVRHC holds the most comprehensive collection of West Virginia newspapers, including more than 50,000 reels of microfilm. The collection is the Center’s most frequently consulted resource.

“Newspapers are among the most significant resources for studying nearly every topic. They are a daily record of what was happening in society over the years,” Cuthbert said.

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Lucy Shuttleworth at WVU

Jane Metters LaBarbara
September 10, 2019

Blog post by Jessica Eichlin, Reference Supervisor, WVRHC.

Now that the students at West Virginia University have settled back into their school routines, we thought it might be a good idea to take a look back at what other WVU students experienced in the past.  This post will just focus on one such student: Lucy Shuttlesworth, who attended WVU from 1917-1921.

Headshot portrait of Lucy Shuttleworth
Lucy Shuttlesworth’s high school senior portrait, 1917.  From the Allerlei.

The WVRHC now holds Lucy’s diary and scrapbook from her time at WVU in A&M 4024.  Contained within the pages of both her diary and scrapbook are glimpses into her life while a young student in Morgantown.  Lucy was a Morgantown native, having grown up just south of town in the small community of Little Falls.  Later in her adolescence, Lucy and her family moved to Morgantown, where she attended Morgantown High School.

Group portrait of the women basketball team of MHS class of 1917
First women’s basketball team at Morgantown High School, 1917.  Lucy is back row, far left.

In addition to playing on the first women’s basketball team at MHS, Lucy was also an editor for the school’s annual yearbook, the Allerlei.  Once she reached college, Lucy quickly got involved in social life, joining the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.  Shortly after joining KKG, Lucy began keeping a detailed diary of her experiences at school.

Below are just a few of her entries.

  • Tuesday August 20, 1918, 11 PM “this is the most perfect night, moon n’ everything and I feel like I would love to walk for miles and miles.”
  • Sunday September 1, 1918 11:30 PM “To-day we had our Shuttlesworth reunion at Aunt Louise’s old home, it has rained for three days and the roads are fierce so there were not many there but we had a good time and wonderful eats.”
  • Monday October 28, 1918 “The second wild (or should I say wild?) thing of my life happened to-day. No, I shall not call it wild for it was just thrilling– I have it now, it was daring.”
  • Tuesday November 12, 1918 “War really ended yesterday, we had a big parade and all sorts of celebration. Man oh man, it was the happiest day of our lives.”
  • Monday March 25, 1919 “o little diary, if you knew how miserably blue I am but you don’t, nobody does and I don’t. I could just cry and cry — Disgust–”
  • Monday June 9, 1919 “Exams to-morrow– Oh horrors! Weeping, Wailing, Knashing of teeth!”

Lucy’s scrapbook is also packed full of ephemera, including dance cards, letters, table place cards, and more.

Dance cards glued onto a scrapbook page.
Above, a page of dance cards.  Pencils were often attached to the small booklet. 
Cover and interior pages of a dance card, showing the names of the men to be danced with and the corresponding types of dance.
A dance card in detail.  These were used to record with whom a woman intended to dance throughout the evening.

Lucy may have dressed and talked differently than college students today, but she did enjoy spending time with friends, going to parties, and, of course, complaining about exams.

For additional information about what was in Lucy’s scrapbook and diary, check out our previous blog post on the subject: WVU Student Scrapbook from the Jazz Age

Sources:

A&M 4024, Lucy Shuttleworth Dunlap, West Virginia University Student, Diary and Scrapbook, West Virginia and Regional History Center, WVU Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Morgantown High School, Allerlei, (Morgantown: Morgantown High School, May 1917).

Special thanks to Dr. Hal Gorby of the WVU History Department, who suggested this topic.

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The Incredible Story behind the Collapse of the National Bank of Keystone

Jane Metters LaBarbara
September 4, 2019

Blog post by Linda Blake, University Librarian Emeritas

Twenty years ago, on September 1, 1999, a federal agency, the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC), closed the National Bank of Keystone and turned it over to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Button on jacket that says "I survived the 1st National Bank of Keystone"
Button on jacket that says “I survived the 1st National Bank of Keystone”

Just weeks before, the good people of Keystone, West Virginia could have seen the removal of bank records from an old school building and witness their burial on the property of Terry Church, the head of the bank.  Bank officials buried the records in an effort to cover up their inefficiency, corrupt and illegal practices, and the theft of millions of dollars.   A month and a half after the bank closing, the FBI dug up the records, and so began the collection of evidence for the criminal and civil trials to follow.

The town of Keystone, with a population of about 500 at the time of the bank closing, was once a thriving coal community with an historically majority black population, but in 1999 it was the center of national attention as the story of the unprecedented collapse unfolded.  The town of Keystone lost one of its major employers and some people lost their life savings.

Jacket with picture of Keystone Bank on the back
Jacket with picture of Keystone Bank on the back

The bank once heralded as one of the top-performing banks in the nation faced a deficit of $500 million between reported assets and actual funds. The FDIC estimated that the bailout cost the Bank Insurance Fund between $750 million and $850 million, making it one of the 10 most costly failures in history.

Article with headline "FDIC seeks $500 million from Keystone"
Article from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph on September 6, 2001 by Bill Archer.

William “Bill” Archer, reporting for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, documents the collapse of the bank and its aftermath in his papers which were recently processed in the WV and Regional History Center.  Archer’s in depth reporting and research covered every aspect of the troubles at the Keystone Bank and then closely followed the subsequent court cases against the crooks who drained the bank of its funds and wreaked financial devastation on this small town.  He also investigated the key characters in this unbelievable drama.  They include Knox McConnell who came from Pennsylvania to run the bank in 1977 but died before the collapse in 1997; Terry Church who took over the bank after McConnell’s death; Billie Cherry, McConnell’s companion who was mayor of Keystone at the time of the bank closing; and an assembly of bank employees, relatives of the major players, government officials, accountants, and many more. 

A man standing with five women

Knox McConnell, Keystone Bank president, and the women known as Knox’s Foxes.  From left to right:  Billie Cherry, two unnamed women, Knox McConnell, Terry Lee Church, Melissa Quesenberry

If burying bank records in broad daylight seems fantastical, other side stories from the Keystone Bank collapse include:

  • obstructing the investigation by federal agencies with shenanigans including threats and intimidation of examiners, stonewalling, falsifying documents, and involving U.S. Congressmen
  • incompetence and in-fighting of the two oversight federal agencies, the OCC and the FDIC
  • forging a false codicil to a will to gain control of McConnell’s wealth
  • Waynesburg College’s battle to get the endowment left in McConnell’s will
  • money laundered through a bingo parlor in Alabama and a motorcycle shop called Hog Pen and owned by Terry Church’s husband
Newspaper page with headline "FDIC Investigation May Lead To Federal Claim On Frontier Palace Bingo Hall"
Article from the Piedmont (AL) Journal-Independent, March 1, 2000, regarding local bingo parlor.
  • Keystone as precursor of the larger 2008 big bank financial collapse
  • international intrigue as off shore lenders became involved
  • criminal involvement of a  prestigious law firm and accounting firm including an accountant named Harry J. Potter
  • a U.S. Congressional hearing on how the government failed to prevent the disaster
  • and more, more, more

It’s all here for study and investigation in William Archer’s papers.  Additional sources in the Center include a book, Anatomy of a Bank Scandal: the Keystone Bank Failure—Harbinger of the 2008 Financial Crisis by Robert S. Pasley, a former attorney for the OCC; newspaper microfilm files for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and other newspapers and journals; and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s investigation freely available online.   

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Mountaineer Week Collection

Jane Metters LaBarbara
August 26, 2019

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

The University Archives recently received records from the Office of Multicultural Programs that cover the planning of Mountaineer Week in the past. Among other things, we now have their planning binders covering 1995-2005.  This has been a very enjoyable collection to process, though it has made me crave funnel cake and kettle corn a few months too early.  (Mountaineer Week runs November 1-9, 2019.) There are a few highlights that I found so far to share with you.

One of the first things I found was a list of former Most Loyal award winners.  During Mountaineer Week, they have chosen Most Loyal Mountaineers and Most Loyal West Virginians.  The Most Loyal Faculty and Staff Mountaineer award was created in 1994 and split into two separate honors in 2003.  The History Center has the papers of a few of these individuals, including Jim Comstock, Donovan Bond, Dr. Earl Core, and Arch Moore.

List of Most Loyal Mountaineer and Most Loyal West Virginian award winners, 1974-1990

Mountaineer Week has included a host of unusual and interesting events over the years, but one that caught my eye was an advertisement for the “world’s largest” Duck Duck Goose game, to be held on Saturday, November 8, 2003. The event was sponsored by U92, WVU’s student-run radio station, in conjunction with Mountaineer Week. I checked the Daily Athenaeum for the following Monday to see if this game happened as planned, but it was not mentioned. For reference, the current largest Duck Duck Goose record was established in October 2011, for a 2,135 participant-game at Logan-Rogersville High School in Rogersville, Missouri, lasting over 15 minutes. (https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-game-of-duck-duck-goose)

Yellow flyer advertising game of Duck Duck Goose

Finally, in one of the 2005 planning binders, I found a multi-page document titled “Mountaineer Week History,” which I have copied below for you all. I think it was originally written to be added to the Mountaineer Week web page for 2005.  The images were added by me.


“Mountaineer Week marks the time when the leaves are turning and the chill has returned to the evening air, setting the stage for a celebration filled with art, unique crafts, and Appalachian culture, heritage, and cuisine. This celebration of the state of West Virginia, held on the campus of West Virginia University, was conceived in 1947 as an event to arouse more school spirit. The initial weekend started with a thuse [?] on the old athletic field the night before the WVU versus Kentucky football game. Following the game, a dance requiring mountaineer garb was held with awards given for the costumes most representative of a true mountaineer.

In 1948, the initial Mountaineer school spirit activities were held. However, other events added to the celebration were floats, hay wagons, and “jalopies” parading down High Street and up University Avenue before the football game.

The first-ever beard growing competition was held in 1949. The idea for a Mountaineer Mascot Statue was initiated during the 1950 Mountaineer Weekend which ended with a carnival in the Field House with the proceeds from the various booths being placed in a fund to help pay for a bronze statue of a Mountaineer for the campus.

Between 1953 and 1958, a fashion show, folk singing events, and a Friday night concert were added to the weekend highlights.

No major innovations were introduced until 1962 when the Mr. and Ms. Mountaineer Contest joined in the festivities. In 1972, the 25th Anniversary of this West Virginia University and state of West Virginia celebration grew into a week-long event now referred to as Mountaineer Week. The theme of the 25th Anniversary was deemed as “The Home of Mountaineers”. In 1972, several diversified events were added to Mountaineer Week, including: the first Mountaineer Week Arts and Crafts Festival, a Mountaineer dinner, various games and concerts, and a Downtown Festival.

West Virginia heritage at its finest was displayed during the 1972 Mountaineer Week with the opening of the First Annual Mountaineer Week Arts and Crafts Festival. In cooperation with the West Virginia State Department of Commerce and the Campus Club, the Arts and Crafts Festival was held in the Gold Ballroom of the Mountainlair. Some crafts that highlighted the event were spinning, wood carving, early American basketry, cornhusk dolls, pottery, leather crafts, blacksmithing, and dulcimer making. Today, the Craft Fair remains to be held in the Blue and Gold Ballrooms of the Mountainlair and features traditional and contemporary crafts of Appalachia with over 60 artisans from West Virginia and neighboring states.

Person spinning yarn at a spinning wheel

In 1972, the Mountaineer Week celebration also initiated a tradition that lasted many years at West Virginia University-Mountaineer Week Cabin Sales. Located in the right front yard of the Mountainlair was a rustic mountaineer cabin which was completely built by the Foresters and was made from native West Virginia materials. Cabin Sales, viewed to contribute to the heritage and culture of our great state, provided a central location in which mountaineer items could be purchased throughout the week. [Editor’s note: if anyone has photos of this cabin, please let me know!]

One of the first Mountaineer Week Dinners was held in 1972 in Summit Hall and the Mountainlair. The Mountaineer Week Committee in cooperation with Ms. Jean Benson of Housing and Food Service planned a menu that all Mountaineers loved. Today, the annual Country Vittles Dinner Buffet is a down-home feast like Grandma used to make. Mountaineer Week also offers Appalachian treats such as funnel cakes, homemade lemonade, maple sugar syrup/candy, muffins, fudge, pepperoni rolls, candy apples, and much more!

Tradition was always the predominant element of Mountaineer Week. In 1977, the practice of adopting a quilt pattern was incorporated into Mountaineer Week to add a feeling of unity to the week’s festivities. In 1977, the “Double Wedding Ring” quilt logo was proposed and accepted as the official quilt logo of that year’s Mountaineer Week. The quilt was made by Ethelyn Butler and Mae Long, who won the Bicentennial Quilt Show for the Smithsonian. The “Double Wedding Ring” Quilt is still on display at WVU Jackson’s Mill Conference Center. Each year thereafter, a quilt logo was chosen and a quilt square was made and framed to showcase that particular year. Most of the framed quilt squares are on display in the Mountainlair today. In 1997, the current Mountaineer Week logo was chosen to provide long-term unity and consistency and remains as the official Mountaineer Week Logo today. This year’s Mountaineer Week Quilt Show is being presented by the Country Roads Quilt Guild. Adorning the Mountaineer Room and Ballroom Stage of the Mountainlair will be colorful handmade quilts loved by generations, along with quilters showcasing their talents.

Fiddling has an extensive history and has been studied and written about by many music scholars and history enthusiasts. Fiddlers have provided mountain music and foot stompin’ fun for many years as part of Mountaineer Week. Still today, the Fiddler’s Contest remains a favorite part of Mountaineer Week. Local, state, and neighboring state fiddlers compete in the Gluck Theatre of the Mountainlair for the top awards in the Junior and Senior Divisions.

Fiddlers, banjo player, and mandolin player standing with microphones

From years gone by to the present time, dancing has provided exercise and friendship to both the young and the old. This heritage form of Appalachian entertainment historically consisted of dancing with partners at an old-time square dance or adding a step to the square dance to enjoy what is known as clogging. These traditions have followed our Mountaineers down through the years at WVU. Mountaineer Week today still hosts an Old-Fashioned Square Dance and many exhibitions of Clogging in Appalachia.

Mountaineer Week has showcased numerous other heritage events in its 58 years of existence. Highlights through the years have been the annual PRT Cram. Mountaineer Week is certainly important on the WVU campus due to the fact that we have our very own Mountaineer Week PRT Car, designed specifically for our historical PRT Cram. The record number of students crammed into the PRT Car is 97, accomplished in the year 2000.

WVU PRT car moving along the track
The record for the PRT cram is 97 people in one PRT car. I can’t imagine what that must have looked like, since the cars comfortably fit perhaps 12 people with backpacks.

The Mr. & Ms. Mountaineer Contest has been held in conjunction with Mountaineer Week since 1962. Each year, the long-awaited announcement of Mr. & Ms. Mountaineer is presented to the Mountaineer fans at the halftime festivities of the Mountaineer Week Football Game. Down through the years, the Mr. & Ms. Mountaineer have represented West Virginia University and our great mountain state. This prestigious award honors one male and one female student who have a record of academic achievement and extracurricular involvement. Along with the announcement of Mr. & Ms. Mountaineer, is the naming of the Most Loyal West Virginian, the Most Loyal Alumni Mountaineer, the Most Loyal Faculty Mountaineer, and the Most Loyal Staff Mountaineer for their accomplishments to the state and West Virginia University. Our Mountaineer Week Royalty will be named at half-time of the WVU versus Connecticut Football Game to be held on Wednesday, November 2, 2005, at 7:30 P.M. at Mylan Puskar Stadium.

The Mountaineer Mascot has represented West Virginia University’s athletic teams, students, and alumni since 1927. In addition, each Mascot represented something even more – the Mountaineer spirit that is spread throughout the great state of West Virginia. In 1993, the first-ever Mountaineer Mascot Reunion was held during Mountaineer Week. At this humbling event, thousands of blue and gold fans welcomed back home our former Mountaineer Mascots who were chosen by Mountain Honorary for outstanding enthusiasm and character. At this first-ever gathering, it was decided that a Mascot Reunion would be held every five years during Mountaineer Week. In this regard, a Second Reunion was held in 1997, a Third in 2002, and we look forward to our Fourth in 2007. The current Mountaineer Mascot is Derek Fincham, a religious studies graduate now pursuing a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, from Petersburg, West Virginia.

The year 2005 will mark the Second Annual Mountaineer Week Mountaineer Idol Competition on the campus of West Virginia University. The competition is open to WVU students only. The event is sponsored by Mountaineer Idol, Fox 46, and Coke-A-Cola [Coca-Cola]. Throughout the six-week competition, various genres of music will be highlighted such as pop, country, R&B, and rock. On Sunday, October 30, 2005, the Mountaineer Idol will be named at the official kick off to Mountaineer Week 2005. For more information on our Mountaineer Idol Competition, please click on Mountaineer Idol. [Editor’s note: this is why I think that this piece was originally written for a webpage]

Some of the highlighted events for Mountaineer Week 2005 will be the return of The Bee Beard Man, Mr. Steve Conlon from Thistle Dew Farm. If you want to BEE fascinated, please come to the Mountainlair Food Court on Friday, November 4, 2005, for an 11:00 A.M. show and a 1:00 P.M. show. Family Fun Day will be held on November 5, 2005, from noon – 5:00 P.M. Family activities will be held such as marble contests, special appearances by numerous celebrities, cake walks, local police and firemen appearances, storytelling, horse and buggy rides, clogging, and much, much more.

Fifty-seven years of culture and heritage is etched in the minds and hearts of Mountaineers as they remember Mountaineer Week on the campus of West Virginia University. Our WVU Students need to be reminded of the heritage that has made West Virginia what it is today. Therefore, we invite all members of our student body, faculty, staff, community, and state to join us on October 30 – November 6, 2005, as we celebrate – Mountaineer Week!

Prepared by: Sonja L. Wilson
Mountaineer Week Advisor”

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New Microfilm Scanners at the WVRHC

Jane Metters LaBarbara
August 16, 2019

Blog post by Jessica Eichlin, Reference Supervisor, WVRHC.

Screenshot of ScanPro software, showing historical letter with enlarged picture of letterhead of the Ruffner Bros. Wholesale Grocers
Screenshot of ScanPro software, showing letterhead of the Ruffner Bros. Wholesale Grocers

The West Virginia and Regional History Center just upgraded two of our microfilm machines to the ScanPro 3000, a brand of digital microfilm readers.  Frequent visitors may have already seen these machines in action.  We already have two digital microfilm machines, both ViewScans.  The addition of the two ScanPro microfilm readers gives patrons greater flexibility to use the machine with which they are most comfortable.  Alongside our two ViewScan digital machines, the ScanPro microfilm readers will give patrons better control over viewing and image editing, and will allow digital capture of  images.

Computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse with ScanPro microfilm reader/scanner
One of the new ScanPro 3000 microfilm machines and monitor.

The ScanPro software, although organized differently from the ViewScan, has many of the same capabilities.  Patrons can digitally capture images, adjust the image brightness and contrast, and zoom in on film.  Digital images can be emailed or saved to a USB drive.  One of the ScanPro machines is attached to a printer.

Screenshot of ScanPro software, showing two historical letters
The setup of the ScanPro when viewing microfilm.

The user toolbar is located to the left of the screen when viewing microfilm.  Divided up into Home, Adjust, Output, and Setup, each menu contains a number of tools for viewing, capturing, and exporting digital images.  The Home section includes tools which allow for basic image tweaking, including brightness, contrast, straighten, and rotate.  The Adjust section features tools which allow a patron to adjust the image on their screen.  Auto-Adjust is one which automatically adjusts brightness and contrast, straightens the image, and detects the image on the screen (the green dotted box in the image above).  Also on this menu are zoom, film orientation, and manual adjustments for brightness, contrast, and straightening.  On the Output menu, patrons can print to the printer if they are on the adjacent ScanPro, save to USB, or send captured images through email.  Images can be captured in PDF, JPEG, and other file formats, although PDF is the default.  Patrons do not need to use the Setup section of the toolbar, as it contains password-protected program settings.

The software also has some more advanced capabilities that the ViewScan machines do not.  Patrons can run OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on a page to find particular words.  The function is not 100% accurate, as early newsprint isn’t always uniform, but the feature can streamline some of the searching process.  Another useful feature is the program’s ability to recognize a page, and then scan from that page to the next recognized page.  This can eliminate some scrolling as patrons read through a particular paper or item.

These are just a few of the features of the new ScanPro microfilm machines.  We hope you are able to stop by soon to test out the new machines!

ScanPro3000 microfilm reader/scanner and keyboard

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