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
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC.
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.
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.”
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.)
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.
It was easy enough to confirm that this particular Chitwood was the man for whom Chitwood Hall was named.
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.
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!
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)
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.”
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
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
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
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.