Frances Clayton and the Women Soldiers of the Civil War

This post contributed by Elizabeth Nosari, Nau Project Archivist at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Her work involves processing the John L. Nau III Civil War History Collection, which includes correspondence, diaries, photographs, military records, currency, and printed materials relating to the American Civil War (1861–65).  

Popular notions of women during the Civil War center on self-sacrificing nurses, romantic spies, or brave ladies maintaining the home front in the absence of their men. This conventional picture of gender roles does not tell the entire story, however. Men were not the only ones to march off to war. Women bore arms and charged into battle, too.

— DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook, They Fought Like Demons, p. 1.

CDV Portrait of Female Union Soldier Frances Clalin Clayton

Frances Clayton. MSS 16459, Gift of John L. Nau III

Minnesotan Frances Louisa Clayton (sometimes spelled Clalin; born ca. 1830) was purported to have disguised herself as a man under the alias Jack Williams in order to enlist and fight in the United States army during the Civil War, at a time when women were barred from service.1 Some historians question the veracity of accounts of Clayton’s military service.2 However, her story would not have been as rare an occurrence as one might think. In They Fought Like Demons (2002), historians DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook note they had discovered evidence of some 250 women soldiers who adopted male personas in order to fight in the Civil War. Moreover, Blanton and Cook expect there are hundreds more women whose stories have gone undocumented as lower literacy rates as well as the private nature of their soldierly subterfuge meant they were less likely to write letters or diaries detailing their experiences than their male counterparts.3 “Unless women were discovered as such … or unless they publicly confessed or privately told their tale of wartime service, the record of their military career is lost to us today.”4 As the authors acknowledge, Black women, in particular, are underrepresented in this history due to the fact that biographical stories of Black soldiers serving in the United States Colored Troops largely went uncovered by the mid-nineteenth century’s racist and white-centered mass media. What is certain, however, is that “more women took to the field during [the Civil War] than in any previous military affair [in the United States’ history].”5

What we know of Clayton comes from newspaper reports and men’s eyewitness accounts. Interviews with Clayton and witnesses featured in many newspapers when her story broke in 1863. One witness’s account lauds her service: “She stood guard, went on picket duty, in rain or storm, and fought on the field with the rest and was considered a good fighting man.”6 However, only sparse details about Clayton’s military service are documented as “most reporters found the story of the faithful wife more appealing than the details of Clayton’s life as a soldier.”7 Reports say she enlisted alongside her husband, John, in a U.S. Missouri regiment in the fall of 1861.8 She fought in eighteen battles between 1861 and 1863.9 These included the Battle of Fort Donelson in Tennessee (February 11–16, 1862), in which she was wounded. During the Battle of Stones River (December 31, 1862–January 2, 1863), Clayton reported having witnessed her husband’s death “just a few feet in front of her. When the call came to fix bayonets, [she] stepped over his body and charged.”10 Clayton was discharged in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1863.11

CDV Portrait of Femail Union Solder Frances Clalin Clayton no. 2

Frances Clayton. MSS 16459, Gift of John L. Nau III

There are no known extant military records documenting Clayton’s story. However, historic photographs of Clayton as a soldier demonstrate the effectiveness of her male persona. In this full-length carte de visite portrait from the John L. Nau III Civil War History Collection, Clayton is shown standing and holding a sword, at ease in her Union uniform topped with the cavalryman’s Hardee hat. Contemporary newspaper descriptions further underscore Clayton’s evident soldierly comportment. According to one account, Clayton was “tall,” “masculine-looking,” and had skin “bronzed by exposure.”11 To pass as a man, she was said to have adopted an “erect and soldierly carriage” as well as a “masculine stride in walking.”13 She was also said to have excelled as a swordsman (as she is pictured) and rider in addition to then “manly vices” such as drinking, smoking, swearing, and gambling.”14

At the time of the Civil War, women, particularly those of the middle and upper classes, were expected to be “demure, submissive, pious, and concerned only with home and family.”15 However, such “Victorian ideals of womanhood” were relatively less important to those existing childless, outside of marriage, or with fewer choices, including those in the “working and lower classes, yeoman farmers, newly arrived immigrants, or pioneering families.”16 Moreover, according to Blanton and Cook, the woman warrior was familiar in popular culture and was considered “a virtuous and heroic ideal.”17 This archetype would have been visible in “any number of … examples, both true and legendary.”18 And American precedent would have included historic women such as Deborah Samson (alias Robert Shurtleff), who fought during the American Revolution.19

Clayton’s carte de visite portraits demonstrate the gendered binary of life in the mid-nineteenth century and the boldness of women soldiers’ “private rebellion against [restrictive] public conventions.”20 Women who fought in the Civil War, including white women such as Mary and Molly Bell (Confederate), Lizzie Compton (Union), and Cuban-born Loreta Velázquez (Confederate), risked their lives and the threat of arrest and imprisonment by fighting. This was even more true for Black women soldiers such as Lizzie Hoffman (Union, 45th U.S. Colored Infantry) and Maria Lewis (Union, 8th New York Cavalry), and the outcome of the war held deeply personal implications for Black women’s freedom and personhood.21 Lewis, a formerly enslaved woman from Albemarle County, Virginia, “emancipated herself from slavery” by assuming the alias George Harris and passing as a white man to fight with the 8th New York Cavalry.22 The stories of Lewis, Clayton, and many more show that adopting male personas and fighting in the Civil War enabled women to gain social, economic, and civic privileges that were “otherwise closed to them.”23

1 Women would only be granted the right to choose direct combat roles in all branches of the United States military 150 years later, in 2016. See Jim Miklaszewski and Halimah Abdullah, “All Combat Roles Now Open to Women, Pentagon Says,” December 3, 2015,, accessed October 11, 2022.

2 Wikipedia, s.v., “Frances Clayton,”, accessed October 11, 2022.

3 DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook, They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: LSU Press, 2002), 2.

4 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 7.

5 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 6.

6 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 75.

7 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 149-151.

8 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 34.

9 Bonnie Tsui, She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), 66.

10 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 11.

11 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 34 and 150.
12 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 48.

13 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 58.

14 My emphasis on the photographic portrait. Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 52, 55, and 58.

15 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 3.

16 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 3.

17 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 5.

18 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 5.

19 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 5.
20 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 5.

21 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 6.

22 Wikipedia, s.v., “Maria Lewis,”, accessed October 11, 2022.

23 My emphasis. Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 5.

Work Cited

Blanton, DeAnne, and Lauren M. Cook. They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: LSU Press, 2002.

Miklaszewski, Jim, and Halimah Abdullah. “All Combat Roles Now Open to Women, Pentagon Says,” December 3, 2015., accessed October 11, 2022.

Tsui, Bonnie. She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War. Washington, D.C.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.

Wikipedia, s.v., “Frances Clayton,”, accessed October 11, 2022.

Wikipedia, s.v., “Maria Lewis,”, accessed October 11, 2022.

Julian Bond and Black Popular Culture


This post is contributed by Derrais Carter (he/they), a writer, book artist, and Assistant Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona. As a William A. Elwood Fellowship recipient, Carter used his research to investigate links between Julian Bond and blaxploitation cinema.

I went in search of conspiracy. For a length of time, that I’m slightly embarrassed to admit, I have searched for information about a group of well-intentioned activists who live in my mind as a cabal. Their mission was to rid Black America of demeaning, stereotypical representations in film. They called themselves the Coalition Against Blaxploitation (CAB).

The CAB is said to have originated in 1972. Organized by Junius Griffin, the same man who coined the term blaxploitation, the CAB included activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).[1] Blaxploitation, Griffin’s portmanteau of “Black” and “exploitation” names Hollywood’s attempt to capitalize on the film industry’s newfound interest in targeting Black filmgoing audiences. This interest resulted from the success of early 70s films including but not limited to Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971), Shaft (1971) and Superfly (1972). While these films were monumental commercial successes, they also raised questions around the quality of Black representation in film. Enter blaxploitation. Griffin used the term critically to expose Hollywood’s investment in stereotypical representations that were psychologically damaging to Black Americans. When he introduced the term in Variety, Griffin was the head of the Hollywood NAACP. In this way, he was well-poised to work with other civil rights organizations to merge their resources toward the greater end of the film industry’s anti-Black practices.

What has long intrigued me is the shadowy and nebulous way the group seems to have operated. Given the histories and racial triumphs of the organizations involved, I wondered why the CAB isn’t more visible in archival collections or trade publications. So, casting a wide net, I ventured into the Julian Bond Papers (MSS 13347 + accreations) at the Small Special Collections Library in hopes of finding incontrovertible evidence of the group’s existence. I don’t know if he was involved with them. But as a founding member of SNCC, I thought his papers might contain some information about the CAB and how they saw themselves extending SNCC’s political efforts. In the absence of a glaring piece of historical evidence, I would have settled for a letter, note, or photograph that provided insight into how the CAB operated.

I found nothing of the sort.

Slightly deterred, my curiosity never wavered. For the next few days, I abandoned my initial inquiry and allowed myself to wade in the papers and wander, folder after folder, photographing items that piqued my interest. On my final day in special collections, I packed my belongings, exited the library, and took a deep dive into the photographs I snapped while researching onsite over copious amounts of earl grey tea. I’d selected a strange amalgam of political speeches, business and personal correspondence, notes and ephemera from various events. As I read, I reviewed my folders and took notes on what might be useful for my blaxploitation research. In the process, I gained a better idea of the extent to which Bond was interested in and engaged with popular culture. In this way, the collection did not disappoint.

Three b/w photos of Julian Bond at work organizing for SNCC

In 1961, Bond left Morehouse College to join the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), becoming a prominent member of the civil rights movement and organizing sit-ins and voter registration campaigns. Julian Bond Papers (MSS 13347, Box 120-121).

Below are a few excerpts from my time in the Bond papers. From these materials, another story emerges; one that takes me away from my initial inquiry yet delights me as a scholar invested in histories of Black culture. Through these documents, Bond becomes an unexpected vector in the 1970s Black popular culture landscape. With a curiosity I can’t shake I find myself asking, over and over, “Who is this guy?!”

Typewritten letter from Julian Bond letter to his brother James about Black music.

Julian Bond letter to his brother James about Black music. Julian Bond Papers (MSS 13347, Box 115, Folder 5)

Personal correspondence intrigues me. I’m nosey, so I relish opportunities to read correspondence by Black artists and activists.  The significance of the communication, when viewed by a reader who is not the intended recipient can produce a host of reactions. But in this letter from Bond to his brother James, I relish the references to Black music. They give us insight into Bond’s musical taste, alerting us to the voices and sounds that filled his speakers. In this letter, Melba Moore, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Modern Jazz Quartet share space in his personal collection. The sounds emanating from these records, divergent and capacious, allow us to eavesdrop (in a broad historical way) and take in the tempos, grooves, and lyrics that buoyed him. And should we desire to glean the albums that overtly befit Bond the activist, then Alan Lomax’s “prison song recording” or Alan Ribback’s Movement Soul (1967) are fitting references. So, if you can “go for” songs that remind you of Bond, this letter is a great place to begin.

Typewritten letter from Julian Bond to Clarence Avant about starting Julian's music record label

Letter from Julian Bond to Clarence Avant about starting theBlack, Brown, & Beige music record label. Julian Bond Papers (MSS 13347, Box 29, Folder 5)

Bond’s interest in music was also business-related. According to this letter to Clarence Avant, a.k.a. The Black Godfather, Bond was starting his own record label called Black, Brown & Beige. The name appears to be a reference to Duke Ellington’s 1943 composition. The song conveys the story of an African named Boola who is enslaved and brought to the United States. Across 20 minutes, the composition moves listeners from slavery to the emergence of the Blues. While I have yet to verify the existence of the record label, Bond’s desire to extend his activist tactics by releasing an Angela Davis record is especially interesting.

Promotional still photograph of Bond appearing on SNL

Bond’s appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1977. Julian Bond Papers (MSS 13347 – Box 120).

To get a glimpse of Bond’s relationship to humor, one need only look at the documents pertaining to a roast in his honor and his 1977 appearance on Saturday Night Live. The roast materials include a program listing featured speakers, as well as Bond’s script for the event. His barbs at attendees are laced with Black historical references, political commentary, and personal history. The Saturday Night Live materials include a typed draft on his opening monologue, scripts for various segments featuring Bond, and press documents.


Typewritten press release with NBC logo

Press release for Bond’s 1977 appearance on Saturday Night Live. Julian Bond Papers (MSS 13347, Box 6, Folder 22).

typewritten script

Saturday Night Live script for Julian Bond. Julian Bond Papers (MSS 13347, Box 6, Folder 22).

Typewritten letter

Letter from Julian bond to Jean Carey Bond about being in the film (Greased Lightning) with Richard Pryor and Pam Grier. Julian Bond Papers (MSS 13347, Box 28, Folder 1).

This letter from Bond to Jean Carey Bond is the closest I came to finding any meaningful connection between Bond and 1970s cinema. Blaxploitation was on the decline by this point, but I can’t help but wonder what conversations, jokes, arguments, and thoughts percolated between Bond, Pam Grier, Jim Hinton (a.k.a. James E. Hinton), Cleavon Little, Richard Pryor, and Melvin Van Peebles on the set of Greased Lightning (1977).

B/w photograph of Bond shaking hands with Stevie Wonder while others look on.

Julian Bond with Stevie Wonder. Julian Bond Papers (MSS 13347 – Box 120).

These materials give me insight into Bond, but they also remind me that there is so much more to be considered as I examine the cultural life of blaxploitation. Yes, there are iconic films like Superfly (1972) and Blacula (1972). Additionally, there are at least 200 more films that fall under the blaxploitation banner. But, for me, the term exceeds Junius Griffin’s definition. It encapsulates a cultural moment wherein Black artists, activists, and scholars wrestled over the attention and loyalty of Black audiences. And while my time in the Bond Papers did not bring me closer to uncovering the CAB, I take solace in Bond’s musical wants, his humor, and his prismatic Black humanity.


Beyond Making the Grade: Student and Life success at UVA (in 1854 and 2022)

As students approach their final exams for the Fall of 2022, Manuscript and Archives
processor Ellen Welch is pleased to share an original letter from a new acquisition of the Bennett Taylor Papers (MSS 9221), written in 1854 from a father giving advice to his son, a University of Virginia student. These letters were donated by Elizabeth Kirk Page—a descendant of the Jefferson and Randolph family—to the Small Special Collections Library in October 2018.

The letter was written by John Charles Randolph Taylor (1812-1875) to his son Bennett Taylor (1836-1898), a student in February 1854. Taylor is also a great-great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson through his mother Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph Taylor, (1817-1857). Mr. Taylor advises Bennett to engage in student learning that extends beyond test scores and grades.

I love the advice in this letter because it reminds me of how my father used to counsel me when I was a college student—telling me to savor my years of learning as if I were drinking a fine glass of wine! While we may forget a test score, we remember personal and meaningful connections with faculty, students, and academic concepts for a lifetime. As the University community nears the end of this semester, it is good to focus on those connections that can enrich your life forever.

“My dearest Boy,

I received your letter of the 10th & again your letter of the 13th. I am not

disappointed at your finding the examinations harder than you expected. I do not think

success at the University at all necessary to our future success in life. The main object

to be aimed at in after life, it seems to me, is to be good & useful & to perform faithfully

& diligently the duties which accident & your own inclination point out to you. A certain

amount of this world’s goods is necessary to every man. This amount is always attain-

able by every industrious man who does not allow himself to be led away by the temp-

tations which surround him. The mode & manner of attaining this independence

must always depend upon the circumstances of natural talent, capacity for

study, & consequent acquirement, which belong to the individual. Success at college

is often injurious because the recipient of college honors is often inclined to rest

on his [ears]! I look upon the knowledge acquired during your college life of your own

self, as not the least important result which is to be attained. It will be a great

pleasure to me, I confess, for you to graduate with credit in your different classes, &

I still hope that you will be able to do so, by using due diligence. Your after course,

in entering upon the success of life, must as you must see, depend on the

amount of knowledge which you may acquire, & the training which your mind

will receive, during the next four years, & it is most important to you to bring

out your full capacity during that time. My impression is that you ought not

to be discouraged by the late examinations, but that you ought to devote yourself

with all your powers, & systematically, to Latin, French, & Spanish, & endeavor to

make yourself a good graduate in each of these classes at the present session.

In your Greek & Mathematical classes, I would give them sufficient study to insure my

standing well in them in the recitation room and [exam], & give all my extra time to the

three first named, if I were you. If you have not written to me, write to say how

you found the examinations in French & Spanish- & also, the examination in

mathematics, when that takes places. Write to me what you think of my suggestion

about your studies…”

Your most affectionate father

J.C.R. Taylor

Bennett Taylor graduated from the University of Virginia, became a Lieutenant Colonel in the American Civil War, and survived being a prisoner at Johnson Island in Lake Erie, New York. He was a clerk for the Circuit Court, a Justice for the Peace, a Town Magistrate, an attorney, and a husband and father of six children. While he was far from being wealthy—in fact, he struggled to pay his rent—by all known accounts he had a rich and fulfilling life. The Bennett Taylor papers include letters from his grandmother Jane Hollins Randolph (1798-1871), and his great aunt Ellen Wayles Coolidge (1796-1876), granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson.

Some of the letters can also be read online created via Monticello and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Bennett Taylor also collected autographed comments of friendship and signatures from his Kappa Alpha brothers and fellow students at the University of Virginia in an autograph album which is also in our University Archives collection (RG-30/17/1.821).

Check out the related Edgehill Randolph family collection (MSS 5533-e)—these collections give a close-up view of the attitudes and lives of people that lived in our town during another time, sharing past knowledge into our present.








Special Collections Catalogs and Catalogers

This post was contributed by Seonyoo Min, Rare Book Cataloging Intern at the Small Special Collections Library.

The Guanhailou Collection is a collection of East Asian rare books formed by Soren Edgren, Editorial Director of the Chinese Rare Book Project at Princeton University and current RBS Instructor. Recently, part of the collection was transferred to the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. As a Summer 2022 intern at the UVA Library who has a background in East Asian Book History, I was able to get a chance to catalog and process 338 titles of invaluable rare materials, written in Classical Chinese, Modern Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, etc. Cataloging records I created this during my Summer 2022 internship will help you to find books from Guanhailou more easily, and help you understand the overall information of the collection quickly.

The Special Collection Library manages diverse materials written in various languages besides English. Catalogers in there always consider the best way to introduce these collections to the community. Through this blog post, I would like to share with you all the new things I learned during my internship.

How do you find a book you are looking for? In my case, I use a library catalog. I visit a library website, and search for a title of the book, or search keywords that I want to explore. And then, I look at a list of catalog records to find a book I want to investigate. In particular, in the case of Special Collections, the place with “closed stacks,” catalog used to be the only medium that made books accessible to me. Sometimes, even if I do not look for books to read, I look at a library catalog when I want to get some information about on books or writers. And then, I use hyperlinks on the list to search for books on related topics or books written by the same author.

Library catalogs can help you when you find books, when you want to get brief book information, or when you need well-organized information about the book you are looking for. In libraries, staff called ‘Cataloger’ makes catalog records every day to connect valuable information to library users who want to use it. Special Collections Library also has wonderful catalogers.

Catalog records of special collections are a bit more special than usual library catalog records that we are familiar with. Most of the materials in Special Collections are old, and they often go through the hands of several owners before they come to the library. Therefore, you can find descriptions about previous owners or history of the material itself: such as notes written by owners, purchase receipts, and photographs in the bookcase. In addition, catalogers sometimes need to catalog materials other than books, such as leaflets, scrolls, sculptures, etc. The charm of the special collections catalog comes from explaining contextual information and some special physical formats. It helps library users to efficiently search for information by allowing them to understand the characteristics of the materials, without physically looking at them.

Guanhailou Collection

Guanhailou (觀海樓) Collection was formed by Dr. James Sören Edgren (or 艾思仁, 1942-), former Editorial Director of the Chinese Rare Books Project at Princeton University. The primary focus of the collection is Chinese rare books, but the collection also includes significant rare materials in East Asian book history outside China, and some sample leaves of early printing in Europe. Overall, the collection gives a chronological overview of the East Asian book history and printing history, spanning the period of the 12thcentury to the 21st century.

Here are some collection highlights of Guanhailou Collection.

Guanhailou A144

十竹齋箋譜 (Shi zhu zhai jian pu), edited by Hu Zhengyan (1584-1674), Beijing: Rong bao zhai, 1934. 1 volume.

Guanhailou A144 is a Chinese stationery paper book. This 1934 copy is a reprint of xylographic polychrome stationery from Ten Bamboo Studio (十竹齋), Ming Dynasty. Every page of the book contains beautiful printing with detailed light and shade. You can also figure out Chinese blind printing technique (拱花, gong hua) through this book. It is a similar concept to blind embossing of Western culture.

Photo Guanhailou A144 displaying its blue cover and side stab sewing.

Photo of correspondence.

At the backside, 2 pieces of correspondence are laid in the book (Photo 3). The document on the right side of Photograph 3 is the correspondence from R. J. Walsh (1886-1960) to J. Walter Flynn (1910-1977), regarding the book itself and their plan for a new article. The document indicates that the Guanhailou A144 is a presentation copy (no. 12 of 21) by Zheng Zhenduo (鄭振鐸, 1898-1958) to Nym Wales (Helen Foster Snow, 1907-1997).

Guanhailou A144 not only shows an advanced printing technique of China, but also shows the intellectual communication between China and America in 1930s, regarding Chinese publication history. I am thinking about finding a corresponding article in the ASIA journal in the upcoming days, to satisfy my curiosity.

Guanhailou A175

妙法蓮花經卷第三 (Myōhōrengekyō kan dai-3), [Japan], 12th century. 1 roll.

Guanhailou A175 is a Lotus Sūtra (Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra) manuscript, used gold and silver pigment on indigo paper. When you open the scroll, you can find a frontispiece illustration depicting the three chapters of the Lotus sūtra, chapter 5 to 7. I enjoyed finding out which part of the illustration represents each chapter. If this material is used in undergraduate classes or graduate school’s introductory Buddhist studies class, I think it will be a meaningful experience to compare the texts and illustration of the sūtra.

Lotus Sūtra is my favorite Buddhist text, because of the idea of equity in chapter 5, Parable of the Plants, which is in the first part of the Guanhailou A175. In this chapter, Sakyamuni likens the people to plants. Every plant has various heights and leaves size. These differences make each plant’s acceptable amounts of rainwater (wisdom) different. In Sakyamuni’s view, every person has a possibility to become a buddha, so they are equal. He thought if he understood each person and gave them a customized sermon for them, everyone could get enlightenment. This phrase was helpful to me at the time when I just started teaching as a graduate assistant. Thanks to the phrase, I could try to understand each student’s characteristics and their interest more. I hope this sūtra will help someone who is starting a new career in dealing with people.

Guanhailou A095

中說 (Chungsŏl), written by Wang Tong (584-617); annotated by Ruan Yi, [Seoul: Kyosŏgwan], [not before 1484]. 1 volume.

Guanhailou A095 is a canonical work of famous Confucian scholar Wang Tong (王通). Wang’s insights into Confucianism, education, and politics are well described in conversations between Wang and their students.

A number of Ex libris stamps on the caption title page, and photographs and documents laid in shows the solid provenance information, from the 16th century to the present.

A number of Ex libris stamps on the caption title page, and photographs and documents laid in shows the solid provenance information, from the 16th century to the present.

What makes this book so attractive is the printing style and provenance. This metal movable type printing used Korean metal movable type called Kapchinja (甲辰字). Made by palace in 1484, this movable type is well-known for beauty and its small font size. It was used until just before the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598).

After the war, the book started a long journey outside Korea. A number of Ex libris stamps on the caption title page, and photographs and documents laid in shows the solid provenance information, from the 16th century to the present.

Guanhailou A095 is a wonderful teaching and research resource to study history of Japanese book collectors and the wartime history of East Asia. If there is anyone who is interested in the history of Korea-Japan relationship, they will fall in love with this book.

Cataloging Guanhailou Collection

Making catalogs of the 338 titles of rare books, I realized that this collection has invaluable content and contextual information, showing the long history of intellectual distribution and exchange. I cannot deny that this collection is attractive, but I thought it is quite difficult to access because most of the materials in the collection were written in Chinese characters. As a cataloger, I need to focus on creating catalog records with accurate metadata according to the guidelines. But this ‘language barrier’ made me think more about how to effectively share this information with entire UVA communities. This thought brought out in me the memories when I just started to study East Asian book history.

I was a junior in college, and was learning about East Asian history, but bad at reading Chinese characters. When I first took a glance at East Asian rare book catalog records, I was embarrassed because there was nothing I could read. At that time, I thought it would be wonderful if I could know the topic of the book at least. Also, I wanted to read the Ex Libris seals on the first page of the main text. I simply thought if I knew the previous owners of books, I could more easily figure out the theme and value of the book. However, understanding those decorative engraving seal scripts was impossible for the student who had just begun to memorize regular script Chinese characters.

While cataloging the Guanhailou Collection, I wanted to make a catalog that people like me in the past could read and would like to read. As mentioned earlier, catalog is a search tool that allows library users to find information efficiently. I was convinced that if I could create a catalog that even users who did not know Chinese characters could figure out the title, author, subject, and provenance information of the book, I could reduce the time of information research for users and help users’ decision-making. Let me talk a bit more about subject information and provenance information.

Catalog records of Guanhailou A095, “中設.”

Catalog records of Guanhailou A095, “中設.”

Most catalog records in Virgo use controlled vocabulary called Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). Developed and maintained by the Library of Congress, this thesaurus is one of the most well-known and widely used controlled vocabulary in the library world. Catalogers find or combine the appropriate words in this huge wordbook to describe topics well. If you know LCSH, you can not only understand the topic of the book you are looking for, but also figure out the list of books with the same subject. Catalog records of Guanhailou Collection also contain LCSH. If you click the blue hyperlink at Subject field in Image 10, you can see multiple UVA Library materials with the topic. “Philosophy, Confucian – Early works to 1800.”

Provenance information, information about where the book comes from is in the Local Notes field. As you can see the Image 10, there is a string of the previous owner’s name that can be found in the book. If you know those people and could find a relationship between their interests and the book, you may discover some knowledge that has not been known before.

A Screen you can see when you click “Full Metadata” hyperlink

Currently, the processing for Guanhailou Collection is almost complete. If you search for “Guanhailou” in Virgo, you can explore its catalog records managed by the Special Collections Library. If you want to learn more about the book, please click the “Full metadata” at the bottom of the record, and “FULL RECORD” button. You can read additional information of the material written in some Chinese characters, such as physical description, table of contents, and more subject information.

Finding Your Books

Library resources in foreign languages always makes library users think one step back. They are much harder to find, and even if we find something, it takes more time to figure out if this information is necessary for research. Catalog records of Guanhailou Collection might not give you a complete answer but would assist your decision making at least. I hope my records could help you on your journey to explore our amazing East Asian rare book collection and find some new things that will make you excited.

Nick Biddle and the Commemorative Power of the Carte de Visite

This post contributed by Elizabeth Nosari, Nau Project Archivist at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Her work involves processing the John L. Nau III Civil War History Collection, which includes correspondence, diaries, photographs, military records, currency, and printed materials relating to the American Civil War (1861–65).  

CDV Portrait of African-American Nicholas Biddle. MSS 16459, Gift of John L. Nau III

The Confederates took Fort Sumter following a brief and remarkably bloodless bombardment, April 12–13, 1861, that signaled the beginning of the American Civil War (1861–65). In the aftermath, on April 15, President Lincoln’s call to defend the capital was met by the First Defenders, a group of five volunteer troops from Pennsylvania.1 Among them were the Washington Artillerists from Pottsville, Pennsylvania, which included sixty-five-year-old Nicholas “Nick” Biddle (ca. 1796–1876), who served as the orderly to commanding officer Captain James Wren.2 En route to Washington, D.C., the company arrived in the city of Baltimore in Maryland, a border state, on April 18, 1861. The unarmed soldiers were met by a violent pro-Confederate mob of 2,000 that attacked them with fists, stones, bottles, and “whatever else [the mob] could reach.”3 Biddle was targeted for being a Black man in uniform, and he was reported to have been the first and most violently wounded of the First Defenders.4

When [the mob] saw Nicholas Biddle, an African American in uniform who was treated as an equal by his white comrades…. The mob closed in like “wild wolves,” Captain James Wren, Biddle’s commander, later recorded…. Salvos of bricks pried loose from the streets began to fly through the air. One struck Biddle in the head, knocking him to the ground and leaving a wound that reportedly exposed bone.5

According to historian John D. Hoptak, “Many of the Pennsylvanians present that day believed Biddle was the first man to be struck down by an enemy combatant in the Civil War.”6 Most significantly, however, Biddle, a formerly enslaved person, claimed this distinction for himself and memorialized it by commissioning a carte de visite portrait with W. R. Mortimer (Schuylkill Co., Pa.) in his hometown of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. One of these original photographs, pictured above, is held in the Small Special Collection Library’s John L. Nau III Civil War History Collection. This half-length portrait shows a relatively close-up view of Biddle seated and wearing the uniform of the Washington Artillerists with his kepi hat removed and tucked under his arm. Beneath the image, is the caption, “‘Nick Biddle,’ Of Pottsville, Pa., the first man wounded in the Great American Rebellion, ‘Baltimore, April 18, 1861.” Biddle’s portrait in uniform was radical in many ways—not least because Black men were not legally allowed to enlist in the United States military at the time it was taken in 1861.7

Like many Americans during the Civil War, Biddle chose the carte de visite to make his mark. The advent of photography in the 1840s ushered in the democratization of portraiture, removing it from the sole purview of the elite and the academy. However, early formats like the daguerreotype and ambrotype were still prohibitively expensive for most Americans and limited to a single image developed directly onto a fragile glass plate.8 In contrast, the carte de visite was an accessible, affordable, portable, and easily reproducible aide-mémoire.9 Developed in France by Adolphe-Eugene Disdéri in the 1850s, the format featured an albumen print mounted on a heavier paper the size of a standard business or visiting card.10 By 1860, “cardomania” had arrived and “3,154 Americans earned their living as photographers … [with] at least one in nearly every city and town.”11 Customers, who could purchase multiple prints at a time relatively inexpensively, needed a means of managing and displaying their collections. By 1861, photograph albums also became wildly popular and were filled with portraits of family and friends as well as “mass-produced pictures of … famous people.”12

Americans like Biddle were, for the first time, able to self-consciously create their own identities through photography, “no matter rank or race.”13 As Isidora Stankovic notes, “A single photographic image could reflect an individual’s personality, social standing, intellect—in sum; one’s being—all through the tools of pose, expression, and props.”14 The simple medium of the carte de visite was capable of conveying deeply personal intentions and values, but it was also a form of social currency and a means of commemoration and memory making meant for public consumption, something that, by Stankovic’s account, Biddle seems to have been keenly aware of:

Biddle sold copies of his image at the Great Central Fair in Philadelphia to Americans eager to add his picture to their albums, which were filled with images of the famous and their families. Indeed, a veteran recalled that “‘A photographic album [was] not considered complete in Pottsville without the picture of the man whose blood was first spilled in the beginning of the war.15

The collective importance of photographic images in the nineteenth-century public consciousness cannot be underestimated; and portraits of Black Americans were highly influential, marking a shift in the visual and political culture of the United States. Leading abolitionist and intellectual Frederick Douglass (ca. 1817–1895), a contemporary of Biddle’s, was a forerunner in his use of photographic portraiture to support the abolition movement. Douglass wrote extensively about the democratizing power of photography, and he arguably “defined himself as a free man and citizen as much through his portraits as his words.”16 As Maurice O. Wallace observes, uplifting photographic portraits in the public sphere led the way in introducing Black Americans as a “new national subject” and part of the “imagined body politic.”17 Within this wider trend, according to Wallace, Black soldiering and “the popularity and proliferation of black soldier portraits” like Biddle’s played a key role in “the genesis of African American manhood as a coherent category of civil identity and experience.”18

1 Wikipedia, s.v., “Pennsylvania First Defenders,”, accessed October 11, 2022.
2 John D. Hoptak, “Nicholas Biddle: The Civil War’s First Blood,” HISTORYNET, October 3, 2008,, accessed October 11, 2022.
3 Hoptak, “Nicholas Biddle.”
4 Hoptak, “Nicholas Biddle.”
5 Hoptak, “Nicholas Biddle.”
6 Hoptak, “Nicholas Biddle.”
7 It was not until the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and subsequent creation of the segregated United States Colored Troops (USCT) regiments that Black men were legally allowed to fight in the Civil War. See Wikipedia, s.v., “United States Colored Troops,”
8 Michael Fellman, “Foreword,” in Ronald S. Coddington, Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), x.
9 My emphasis. Fellman, “Foreword,” xiii.
10 Wikipedia, s.v., “Carte de Visite,”, accessed October 11, 2022.
11 Fellman, “Foreword,” xi.
12 Fellman, “Foreword,” xi.
13 My emphasis. Isidora Stankovic, “Tintype Stares and Regal Airs: Civil War Portrait Photography and Soldier Memorialization,” Military Images 33, no. 4 (Autumn 2015): 55,
14 Stankovic, “Tintype Stares and Regal Airs,” 54.
15 Stankovic, “Tintype Stares and Regal Airs,” 56.
16 John Stauffer, “Frederick Douglass, Photography, and Imagination,” in Traveling Traditions: Nineteenth-Century Cultural Concepts and Transatlantic Intellectual Networks, ed., Erik Redling (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, Inc., 2016), 115.
17 Maurice O. Wallace, “Framing the Black Soldier: Image, Uplift, and the Duplicity of Pictures,” in Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity, eds. Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2012), 245.
18 My emphasis. Wallace, “Framing the Black Soldier,” 246.

Works Cited

Fellman, Michael. “Foreword.” In Ronald S. Coddington, Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories, ix–xvi. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

Hoptak, John D. “Nicholas Biddle: The Civil War’s First Blood,” HISTORYNET, October 3, 2008.

Stankovic, Isidora. “Tintype Stares and Regal Airs: Civil War Portrait Photography and Soldier Memorialization.” Military Images 33, no. 4 (Autumn 2015): 53–57. .

Stauffer, John. “Frederick Douglass, Photography, and Imagination.” In Traveling Traditions:
Nineteenth-Century Cultural Concepts and Transatlantic Intellectual Networks, edited by Erik Redling, 113–137. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, Inc., 2016.

Wallace, Maurice O. “Framing the Black Soldier: Image, Uplift, and the Duplicity of Pictures.” In Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity, edited by Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith, 244–266. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2012.

Wikipedia, s.v., “Carte de Visite.”

Wikipedia, s.v., “Pennsylvania First Defenders.

Wikipedia, s.v., “United States Colored Troops.

Folk Art Herbarium Album


Spine view of the album titled News Cuttings

Spine of the album.

Manuscripts and Archives Processor at the Small Special Collections, Ellen Welch started the Spring season with a blog about the Herbarium Pictum album with botanical illustrations honoring Virginia Garden week. Here we are at the end of summer ready to share a new acquisition that is a 20th century garden album from England, acquired from the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society, titled Folk Art Herbarium (MSS 16573). It is an album with pressed flowers, leaf and shrub cuttings and hand drawn illustrations representing the life of the creator of the album. The artist is unknown and created the album from the years 1907 to 1913.
















Side view of the album showing a span of the pages.

“The combination of artwork and pressed flowers in these pages is spectacular,” according to Ellen Welch, Manuscripts and Archives Processor.

Flip through the pages that are filled from edge to edge with these colorfully illustrated drawings showing the gardens they planted, the houses they lived in, and the people they knew. Complimenting the artwork are handwritten personal captions from the artist. See this unique album and be inspired to start your own album to share with generations to come.

First page of album

The first page of the album is full of bright colors, interesting designs, pressed plant leaves, and comments.

Below are some images of the pages along with comments from the Small Special Collections staff upon seeing the album. Special thanks to Rose Oliveira, Accessioning Archivist, for suggesting this item to share and to Whitney Buccicione, Director of Technical Services, for encouraging blogs about our collections depicting flower gardens.

detailed insert of page with a pressed flower

“I love how this album tells a story of one person’s hobby and artistic talents in the 20th century. The combination of preservation techniques and striking amateur paintings stir the imagination about this individual who so clearly had a fondness for their home and gardens. It is remarkable how the colors and textures of these plants remain today. When we receive treasures such as this, I often wonder what the author would think about people still admiring their work a century later.” ~Barbara Hatcher, Acquisitions Specialist.

page of pressed flowers

“I am really drawn to the pressed flower page. The texture is intriguing and as a visual learner, getting to see the actual flowers and leaves is so cool! The bright colors of the next image are eye catching, but the pressed flowers make me want to reach out and touch them!” Penny White, Reference Research Librarian.


Greenhouse drawing

“This beautiful album reminded me that I recently procured a beautiful blank notebook to document my summer vegetable garden, and—while my garden is bursting with lush life and absolutely, wildly fecund here at the mid-point of the summer, my notebook is just as blank as the day I brought it home. In the seasons of life (and this life of mine, now), I might eventually fill the pages of my garden album and seeing this reminds me that doing so might bring joy beyond the seasonal outdoors gardens I make or the illustrative notes I might capture—it might live well beyond me and my time to bring joy to others in worlds and times I cannot even imagine.” Holly Robertson, Exhibits Coordinator.

Drawing of stone or rock house from Streatham, England with inhabitants on the back porch.

“I am the Accessioning Archivist, and I was dazzled when I saw this collection in our intake room. It had been sitting in there a while, a casualty of the pandemic and staff turnover, waiting for someone to move it along. It was such an interesting piece, I might say magical, with so much attention paid to each page. I was happy that our Processing Archivist could do a deeper dive to learn more about it.” Rose Oliveira.

Drawing of Miss Adlam sitting by the window in a house called Fairfield Shipley.

“I love this album so much! The bright colors and intricacy in the paintings make them feel like they are bursting with life. You can tell that this was a passion project for the artist, and I am so glad we have it here so that people can still appreciate it today and possibly be inspired to create artwork of their own.” Stacey Lavender, Digital Archivist.

Specific comments about the last flowers and plants from the garden in the Spring of 1907.

The artist depiction of the the last tulip and the last plant that came out of the front garden. Spring 1907

Portrait of the artist mother during a garden party.

Molly Schwartzburg, the Curator who purchased this collection for UVA, was thrilled to acquire this imaginative album created by a non-famous person.

The collection was brought in on September 21, 2017. Come in and see the whole album. There are more illustrated pages of gardens and activities of the artist.

Othello Tillo Freeman and the Otis Mead Chalmers Family Papers

Small Special Collections Library Manuscript and Archives Processor Ellen Welch is back with another story from her work to process the papers of Anna Maria Hickman Otis Mead Chalmers (1809-1891):  

 It has been very exciting to process this collection and learn of an enslaved person called Othello “Tillo” Freeman. Anna Maria Hickman’s grandfather, General William Hull, who served in the American Revolutionary War and was governor of Michigan, enslaved Othello Tillo Freeman—and “Tillo” is mentioned in legal documents and in the family correspondence. Othello Freeman, if that is even his real name, is represented in the collection by the perspectives and bias of the family. They characterize their relationship with Tillo as being someone that they needed to take care of instead of recognizing that he should be a free man (1. Historic Newton).  The collection was part of our backlog of holdings that are open but needed a higher level of processing to give more visibility and description of marginalized persons in the collection. Thanks to our curator, Molly Schwartzburg, for facilitating an addition to the Mead Chalmers family papers which led to the rediscovery of this historic collection that documents the stories of enslaved people and the generations of the Hull family. They lived in Michigan, Massachusetts and Virginia during epic moments in our history from 1821 to 1897. The collection contains nineteenth century correspondence that would be relevant to historians and scholars because it reveals the complicated relationships of enslavement, including letters about Othello Freeman, as well as a letter written by a formerly enslaved person, William.

Content warning: the collection does contain offensive language.

The papers of Anna Maria (Campbell Hickman) Otis Mead Chalmers (1809-1891 (MSS 4966) and her family offer a deep look into a 19th century American family with a sharp focus on enslaved and formerly enslaved persons. The collection documents the life of a young, widowed woman, Anna Maria Mead Chalmers, who was the granddaughter of General William Hull (1753-1825). She was a mother of four children and became a businesswoman in Richmond, Virginia. She was a writer, an editor of the Southern Churchmen, an educator and founder of Mrs. Mead’s School for Young Ladies, and a director of The Southern Churchmen Cot (“Retreat for the Sick”), a hospital for children. Anna Maria’s family enslaved people who are mentioned in the papers, including Othello “Tillo” Freeman (1790’s-1860’s?).  

In the correspondence of the Mead-Chalmers family are letters describing Othello “Tillo” Freeman. According to the History of Newton Massachusetts, Town and City, From Its Earliest Settlement to Present Time 1630-1880 by Samuel Francis Smith, Tillo was the last known enslaved person in Newton, Massachusetts (2 Smith, S. F.). When Tillo could not work anymore, Anna Maria’s mother, Nancy “Ann” Binney Hull Hickman (1787-1847) left a stipulation in her will that his housing, clothing, and medical care would be provided for him. At the time, this would have been considered generous but there was no discussion of granting him his freedom from enslavement. Instead, the family also inquired about slave laws for travelling with the family so that they could bring Tillo with them when they moved from Newton, Massachusetts to Richmond, Virginia.  

Nancy Ann Binney Hickman last will and testament (September 16, 1846) making provisions for the care of Othello “Tillo” Freeman

Nancy Ann Binney Hickman last will and testament (September 16, 1846) making provisions for the care of Othello “Tillo” Freeman

Letter from Zachariah Mead to his mother-in-law Nancy Ann Binney Hickman explaining that if she moves to Virginia from Massachusetts that she will need to have legal papers to bring Tillo with her. (August 24, 1838)

Letter from Zachariah Mead to his mother-in-law Nancy Ann Binney Hickman explaining that if she moves to Virginia from Massachusetts that she will need to have legal papers to bring Tillo with her. (August 24, 1838)

Letters in the collection show that the Mead and Chalmers family describe themselves as being anti-slavery but not supportive of abolition. They believed in educating enslaved persons but did not free them because they felt that the enslaved needed the protection of their white enslavers.  

Anna Maria Mead Chalmers recounts memories of living with her grandparents, General William Hull and Sarah Fuller Hull, in Newton, Massachusetts and describes their first meeting of an African American named Sam. He survived being enslaved and beaten in Louisiana and escaped to the Hull farm where he was given rest and, after he recovered, worked on their hay fields for the rest of his life. Anna Maria Chalmers refers to him as a “hired” [African American] working on the farm. Her recollection focuses on the kindness that her grandmother bestowed upon Sam who stayed on the farm until his death thirty years later. He was called “Sam the fiddler” because he played the fiddle for the children. He is characterized as faithful and loyal, and while he may have felt gratitude, this description does not take into consideration that he never had the opportunities that existed for free white men.  

There is also a leather-bound account book containing a list of the first names of enslaved persons. It is not clear who owned the book or the location of the enslaved persons, but the list is extensive and dates from 1767 to 1845. Also included in the account book are records for horses and business transactions. 

Page from account book with an extensive list of first names and dates from 1767 to 1845.

Page from account book with an extensive list of first names and dates from 1767 to 1845.

Another formerly enslaved person, William, wrote a letter to Mrs. Chalmers (May 2, 1875) in which he expresses sorrow for the death of her husband, David Chalmers. The letter appears to express the mutual affection shared between Mr. and Mrs. Chalmers and William. It offers a rare glimpse into the realities that people experienced in the institution of enslavement, showing that as wrong as it is to own a person, there are a range of emotions that are hard to describe when people are living close together, with their relationships intertwined in daily life. According to the context provided in these family letters, the family acted as benevolent providers by teaching enslaved persons to read the Bible, paying for their bedding, clothing, medical care, rest, and retirement if they could not work. The family and the formerly enslaved person express intimacy and concern for one another as people might do when they live close together, but at the same time, they are forcing them to serve in bondage or limiting their freedom by offering them work with very low wages. Even though the language in the correspondence appears to be caring and intimate, it must be noted that enslaved persons had no choice in the relationship and that only the family perspectives are fully represented.  

Letter from William, who drove the carriage for Mr. Chalmers, to Anna Maria Mead Chalmers after Mr. Chalmers’s death. May 2, [1875]

Letter from William, who drove the carriage for Mr. Chalmers, to Anna Maria Mead Chalmers after Mr. Chalmers’s death. May 2, [1875]

Anna Maria Mead Chalmers grew up with a strong religious foundation that supported her faith throughout her life of grief and loss. She became the family matriarch after surviving the deaths of three husbands, George Otis (1803-1831), Zachariah Mead (1800-1840), and David Chalmers (1779?-1875?). She also had three sons who lived during the time of the American Civil War: George Alexander Otis, Jr. (1830-1881) who was a field surgeon in the Massachusetts 27th volunteers and assistant surgeon general of the army; Edward C. Mead (1837-1908) who traveled to Australia in search of financial independence with a stint in gold digging, and settled on a farm in Keswick, Virginia; and William Zachariah Mead (1838-1864) who fought at Murfreesboro and died fighting for the Tennessee Army in the Confederacy in the Battle of Resaca, Georgia. The letters from William C. Mead and his friends and family describe skirmishes and battles in the Civil War including Tennessee and Georgia. Included in the collection are letters about succession and anxiety about the conflict between the states. 

Letter from Lieutenant William Mead describing the Battle of Murfreesboro where he was injured. (January 19, 1862)

Letter from Lieutenant William Mead describing the Battle of Murfreesboro where he was injured. (January 19, 1862)

Photograph of Lieutenant William Zachariah Mead (1838-1864)

Lieutenant William Zachariah Mead (1838-1864)

William Mead graduated from the University of Virginia in 1857 before the Civil War began. The collection has many references to Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, including comments about university professors Basil L. Gildersleeve, Gessner Harrison, Socrates Maupin, John Minor, Schele De Vere, James L. Cabell, Frederick George Holmes, and Alfred T. Bledsoe. Charlottesville families include Peter and Frances (“Fannie”) Meriwether, Frances Poindexter, Rector, and Mrs. Ebenezer Boyd, William Cabell Rives, Franklin Minor, Thomas Walker Gilmer and Elizabeth Anderson Gilmer, and Dr. Mann Page. 


University of Virginia Report Card for William Zachariah Mead

University of Virginia Report Card for William Zachariah Mead

Anna Maria Otis Mead Chalmers was extraordinary in having been as well educated as any man in Boston (3 Duval, Maria Pendleton) and shared her knowledge with other privileged young white girls, including Amélie Rives Troubetzkoy, the famous writer. She and some of her family members were friends with literary authors including Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel P. Willis, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. The letters refer to these writers, but there are no letters written by or to the authors themselves. 

Examination questions from Mrs. Mead’s School for Young Ladies

Examination questions from Mrs. Mead’s School for Young Ladies

The collection also includes correspondence from Anna Maria Mead Chalmer’s cousins, James Freeman Clarke (1810-1888) and his sister, Sarah Freeman Clarke (1808-1896). Sarah Clarke was a landscape artist, a world traveler, and a member of the transcendentalist movement (4 Maas, Judith). James Clarke was an American theologian, author, and abolitionist (5 Wikipedia). 

Also of interest in the collection are letters about General William Hull (1753-1825) who fought in the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. He was born in Derby, Connecticut and moved to Detroit Michigan when his government work, which involved the taking of land from Indigenous persons, led him to become the Governor of the Territory of Michigan and the commander of the Army of the Northwest Territory during the War of 1812. He was appointed by Thomas Jefferson and was a friend of General Lafayette. After being unsuccessful in fighting off the Canadians (however claiming that the government did not give him the resources to defend Michigan) he was court-martialed by James Madison who later commuted his sentence (6 Detroit Historical Society). For years, the family fought a claim to refute the charges and receive his backpay. In contrast to General Hull’s work with the government in taking land from Indigenous people, the family kept a newspaper clipping of a sermon by Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple (1822-1901) printed in 1876 which displays Whipple’s outrage at the United States government for taking lands from Indigenous persons. 

Newspaper clipping with sermon by Bishop Whipple in 1876 (unidentified newspaper)

Newspaper clipping with sermon by Bishop Whipple in 1876 (unidentified newspaper)

Covering a wide-range of historic themes, including: the taking of Indigenous lands; enslavement of African Americans; the story of a widowed woman trying to earn a living in the nineteenth century; the War of 1812 and the American Civil War; as well as politics, religion, transcendentalism, local Charlottesville history and professors at the University of Virginia—this is a collection of letters rich in history that shows the inner workings of government and society, and how those systems impact people’s everyday life. Collections like the Papers of Anna Maria (Campbell Hickman) Otis Mead Chalmers (1809-1891) help us to envision our collective past and broaden our perspective on our history and our future. This one is worth a deep dive into the history of the nineteenth century locally and nationally. 


  1. Historic Newton, Historic Burying Grounds Preservation 
    Attachments F-1 – F3 for Historic Resource Proposals 
  2. Smith, S. F. History of Newton Massachusetts. Town and City. From Its Earliest Settlement to Present Time 1630-1880.” Boston: The American Logotype Company, 1880.   
  3. Duval, Maria Pendleton. “The Lengthened Shadow of a Woman” in The Richmond Times Dispatch. August 10, 1913 (Description of Anna Maria Mead Chalmers education in William B. Fowle’s school as being the best in Boston and Mrs. Chalmer’s school as being up to the standards of Harvard) 
  4. Maas, Judith. “Sarah Freeman Clarke: Artist, Traveler, DiaristThe Beehive. Massachusetts Historical Society. November 21, 2019 
  5. James Freeman Clarke.” Wikipedia. Accessed June 7, 2022. 
  6. William Hull” Detroit Historical Society. Detroit Encyclopedia. Accessed June 7, 2022.

Other articles of interest:  

Martin, Susan. “The Unstoppable Anna Maria Mead Chalmers,” The Beehive. Massachusetts Historical Society. June 7, 2022. 


Juneteenth 2022: The Nansemond County Training School 1924-1970

Juneteenth was originally established to commemorate June 19, 1865, when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas heard the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation and learned that they were free. However, Juneteenth is not the only freedom celebration in the United States. For more than two hundred years, Black Americans have selected various dates—including January 1, March 3, July 5, and August 1—for the day’s local significance to the abolition of the slave trade and slavery. With the recent creation of Juneteenth as a federal and state holiday, today we’re reflecting on education as one of many ways that African Americans manifested freedom in Virginia.
— Krystal Appiah, Curator of Virginia Collections

Nansemond County Training School was the first high school for African Americans in Suffolk, Virginia in 1924. We recently received the Margaret Stephenson Collection on Nansemond County Training School (MSS 16683) which documents the work of alumni from 1998 to 2007 to preserve the school and its history—which is also their history. They made a documentary film “Living Through Our Roots” about the school which is included in the collection. Alumni also held reunions to encourage former classmates to share their memories and ephemera in the film. I have enjoyed learning about the school and the people who attended it, and I feel enriched by their personal and uplifting perspectives on life after having lived through segregation. We would like to explore this new collection with you as a celebration of Juneteenth.
— Ellen Welch, Manuscripts and Archives processor

The Nansemond County Training School grew out of a one room building named Little Fork School located on the estate of William Jackson Copeland. According to former second grade teacher Paula Dozier, Copeland envisioned providing a building site to meet the educational and cultural needs of African American children before the turn of the century. The original school was destroyed by fire; its replacement was built in 1924 and become known as the Nansemond County Training School.

Photograph of red school building

Nansemond County Training School 1924-1970

The school, with seven classrooms and one auditorium, contained an elementary and secondary school, and was one of ten Rosenwald schools in Suffolk, Virginia. The Rosenwald schools were known for their standardized floor plans which were designed to let sunlight into the classrooms in the afternoon to save money on electricity and heating. Hannibal E. Howell was its first principal from 1919 to 1961, serving for 42 years. In 1964, the name was changed to Southwestern High School and, after the racial integration of county schools, became Southwestern Intermediate School. Today it is called Southwestern Elementary School and is located next to the Nansemond County Training School (which is currently used for storage).

Headshot portrait of man in suit

Hannibel E. Howell, Principal of Nansemond County Training School 1919-1961

Nansemond County Training School graduating class of 1931

1920’s Photograph of a 4-H Club meeting on the grounds of the new school. (Courtesy of Ruby Holland Walden)

Rosenwald schools were partially funded by Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), an American businessman, philanthropist, and part owner of Sears and Roebuck Company. Rosenwald met Booker T. Washington in 1911, and Washington encouraged Rosenwald to address the poor state of African American education in the South. In 1917, Rosenwald incorporated the Julius Rosenwald Fund to help fund schools with inadequate buildings and teaching materials. The fund required matching support from the community, parents, and local government. Nansemond County Training School received $1,500 from the Rosenwald fund, $5,000 from African American families, and $11,500 in public money.

By the time the program ended in 1932, the Rosenwald Fund had supported nearly 5,000 schools, 217 teachers’ houses, and 163 shop buildings for the education of Black students in the rural South. The documentation in the National Register of Historic Places states that the “Nansemond County Training School is an excellent example of rural southern school architecture, and the combination of public and private money and monies from the Julius Rosenwald Fund show how strongly the community wanted to be able to educate its African American population in a modern school building.”

According to an article by Phyllis Speidell in the 2008 Virginia Pilot article “Raising Funds to Restore Historic School into Heritage Center,” “Many of the Rosenwald schools have disappeared or deteriorated, while the Nansemond County Training School stands strong because it was constructed by skilled Black stonemasons living in the area.”

Ruby Walden (1921-2020; Class of 1938). Her slogan: “what I can, I ought to do. With God’s help, I will do.”

One of the school’s alumni, Ruby Walden (1921-2020; Class of 1938), recalled the struggles of those who attended the school endured just to get basic school supplies. She carried a notebook full of court documents from a court case about the segregated schools—those papers detailed everything from the disparity in library space between Black and white schools to a list of patrons who had given money to help fight the case. In the Suffolk News Herald article “Former School’s Alumni Recall Past, Look to the Future” (October 1, 2013), news editor Tracy Agnew quotes Walden: “We’ve come a long way with a whole lot of struggles,” citing how Black children had to walk to school while white children were provided with buses for transport. Walden added, “I’m proud of the school, but I’m not proud of the fact we could have had a much better education.”

In another article “What She Could, She Did” by Jimmy Laroue in the Suffolk-News Herald (December 29, 2020), Walden is interviewed by Dr. Cassandra Newby Alexander in 2008 as part of an oral history of Virginia’s appellate court. It describes the active leadership of Ruby Walden:

“As part of her legacy, Walden worked with the Suffolk-Nansemond branch of the NAACP to help start a community center and the Nansemond Community Ballpark. She also helped organize the Holland-Holy-Neck Civic League, helping increase voter participation and helped start a Legal Aid Society in Suffolk. Walden also worked with the Literacy Council and spoke personally with the Reverend. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he visited Suffolk, an event she estimated about 20,000 people attended. Walden said, “integration was the law of the land,” so they were torn between integration and their lawsuit to equalize the schools. She recalled that the “whole state started out in ‘massive resistance,’ and then it went to ‘freedom of choice,’ and then ‘assignment.”

Photograph of woman holding framed portrait.

Mae Burke holds her 1958 graduation photo from the Nansemond Training School.

In thinking of her fond memories of the school, Nansemond graduate Mae Burke (Class of 1959) said, “We don’t want to live all our lives and not leave anything for future generations. We don’t want to live here and work here and raise our children here and have nothing to show for it. I think it is a good thing to tell the history.” She and Wardell Baker (Class of 1956), president of the Heritage Center Association, hope that the school can be restored, preserving a historic African American legacy in Suffolk. He said, “This is not an African American project—it’s for the entire area, the whole community.”

Despite the hurdles and inequities of a segregated school system and society, many of the Nansemond/Southwestern alumni achieved academic and professional success, graduating from universities including New York University and Norfolk Polytechnic State University (Norfolk State University) and having professional careers as teachers, doctors, politicians, and lawyers. Our work now is to share their legacy and preserve the story of this school.

This collection was recently donated to the Small Special Collections library by Margaret Stephenson, an architectural historian who collected materials from 1988-2007 to document the effort to preserve historic Nansemond County High School. Stephenson (1942-2014) was born in Richmond, Virginia to Lucille Long Bowles (originally of Severn, North Carolina and later of Como, North Carolina). She earned a master’s degree in architectural history from the University of Virginia and worked for the City of Raleigh’s Planning Department and the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Environmental Division. The Nansemond County Training School was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 in (Holland) Suffolk, Virginia.

A Curator’s Wunderkammer: A Decade of Collecting for UVA

On the occasion of his retirement—after a decade of curatorial work at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library—David R. Whitesell departs the University of Virginia Library having made significant contributions to the collection.

Upon his arrival in 2012, David brought with him deep expertise and experience in acquisitions, bibliography, cataloging, and curation from prestigious institutions, as well as essential knowledge of the rare book and manuscript trade. The Library has benefited from David’s work and has grown in extraordinary ways, all to the betterment of teaching and research. 

Our current exhibition, A Curator’s Wunderkammer: A Decade of Collecting for the University of Virginia (on view in the First Floor Gallery of Harrison/Small through July 9, 2022) celebrates and chronicles the stories behind David’s selected acquisitions, opening the door to an insider’s perspective on the work of a curator—where curiosity is always a key to success.

Celebrating a decade’s worth of acquisitions by Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library curator David R. Whitesell on the eve of his retirement: a Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities that illuminates UVA’s current collecting policy, the ins and outs of the unpredictable and highly competitive acquisitions process, and how curators add value to the collection, one acquisition at a time.

Since 2012 I have shared with curatorial colleagues the privilege of augmenting UVA’s truly remarkable rare book and manuscript holdings. My remit has been primarily pre-1900 materials in all formats. As I prepare to hand this responsibility to a new curator, it seems an opportune time to reflect on a decade’s worth of acquisitions. In this exhibition I offer a small selection with comments intended to illuminate UVA’s current collecting policy, the ins and outs of the unpredictable and highly competitive acquisitions process, and how curators add value to the collection, one acquisition at a time.

Even with a healthy budget, UVA curators can acquire only a tiny fraction of the material appropriate for UVA’s diverse research and teaching needs. No precise count is possible, but my purchases for UVA total approximately 15,000 items; the gifts I have helped bring in may exceed 100,000 items. This constitutes less than 2% of a collection that has been abuilding for two centuries. Still, I hope to show that the value I have added is more than negligible, even if ultimately unquantifiable.

Were my acquisitions arrayed in one massive display, they would likely perplex the beholder by their apparent randomness—more akin to a Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, than a considered, curated selection—until placed within the larger context of UVA’s collection. This is inevitable given the capricious process by which we acquire rare, often unique, materials—a process dependent not only on funding, but especially on knowledge, considered selection, hard work, timing (from lightning response to extreme patience), relationships, market savvy, and luck.

The small sampling on display in the exhibition has been ruthlessly pared by omitting gifts and items representing many areas in which I have collected. Despite having some topical and linear arrangement, it remains more a Wunderkammer than a coherent whole. I encourage you, then, to explore this exhibition in your own way, engaging with those curiosities which attract your gaze and, I hope, some that do not. If I have done the job well, these disparate objects will generate serendipitous connections, insights, and meanings for you, for whom we assemble our collections.

View the full exhibition catalog online here

Every day—now through mid-June—we’ll highlight one object from A Curator’s Wunderkammer on our social media channels. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram!

The exhibition will be on view through July 9, 2022 in the First Floor Gallery of Harrison/Small.


Herbarium Pictum: 2022 Historic Garden Week in Virginia

Each April, we celebrate Historic Garden Week in Virginia. Next week—April 23-30, 2022—private landscapes, public gardens, and historic sites across Virginia will offer tours showcasing our beautiful state at the peak of spring.

In this post by Manuscripts and Archives Processor Ellen Welch, you’ll enjoy just a sampling of images from our collection, Herbarium Pictum (MSS 38-618) which contains five volumes of illustrated watercolors of flowers, plants, fungi, and trees painted by Erdmann Christianus Seyffert, 1743-1757. Special thanks to Heather Moore Riser for suggesting this collection and Whitney Buccicone for the blog idea.

The illustrations are numbered and labeled with their scientific (Latin and Greek) names. The end of volume five includes an index with the names and classifications from Carl Linneaeus (1707-1778), a Swedish botanist, zoologist, taxonomist, and physician who formalized binomial nomenclature, the modern system of naming organisms. The first part of the name, the generic name, identifies the genus to which the species belongs, and the second part is the specific name of the species. The first letter of the generic name is capitalized, and the species is in lowercase. Both names are italicized. The descriptions of the plants have been added to this blog for further identification but are not part of the collection. These watercolor illustrations painted so long ago are beautifully detailed and it is our privilege to share them with you.

The five volumes of Herbarium Pictum—each in a grey paper wrapper with handwritten lettering on the spines.

Herbarium Pictum (MSS 38-618): five volumes of illustrated watercolors of flowers, plants, fungi, and trees painted by Erdmann Christianus Seyffert, 1743-1757.

Aloe americana folio triangula maculoso flore

Aloe americana folio triangula maculoso flore


Aloe americana folio triangula maculoso flore

Aloe, also written Aloë, is a genus (Asphodelacea) containing over 560 species of flowering succulent plants. The most widely known species is Aloe vera, or “true aloe” which is known for healing wounds and treating skin problems.  It is native to tropical and southern Africa, Madagascar, Jordan, and the Arabian Peninsula, as well as various islands in the Indian Ocean.



Aster minensis lyngeneora Aster minensis lyngeneora (Greek and Latin name for Star)

According to one version in Greek mythology, the aster was created by the tears of the Greek goddess, Astraea, at seeing violence on earth. She became upset and asked to be turned into a star. From the heavens, she saw what happened to earth and wept. Her tears fell to the ground and turned into star-shaped flowers. For this reason, asters were named after her. Asters provide habitat and late-season food for pollinators.


Lavatera trimestris 

Lavatera, a native flower of Spain and Syria, is in the family Malvaceae and is a cousin of hibiscus and hollyhock. It was named after 17th century Swiss botanist, J. R. Lavatera. It was referred to as Spanish Summer Mallow.





Amaranthus caudatusAmaranthus caudatus 

Also called Love-lies-bleeding, Tassell flower, and Velvet flower. Many parts of the plant, including the leaves and seeds, are edible, and are used as a source of food in India and South America. In the Victorian language of flowers, Love-lies-bleeding means hopeless love.




Impatiens balsamina Impatiens balsamina

Known also as Balsam, Garden balsam, Rose balsam, Touch-me-not or Spotted snapweed, Impatiens is a species of plant native to India and Myanmar. Juice from the leaves is used to treat warts, snakebites, rheumatism, fractures, and other ailments.




Amaryllis formosissima hexandria Amaryllis formosissima hexandria  

First known in Europe in 1593, Amaryllis are from South America according to Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778).






Hyacinthus orientalus Hyacinthus orientalus 

Hyacinthus are native to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. In the 16th century they became very popular and were imported to many European countries. The first known mention of Hyacinth is in Homer’s Iliad which dates to approximately 762 BCE.




Cereus cactus grandiflorus Cereus cactus grandiflorus

Grandiflorus means “large flowered”in Latin. Carl Linnaeus described this cactus in 1753 as the largest flowered species of cacti known. It is also called Queen of the Night.





Brassica oleraceaBrassica oleracea

Brassica oleracea is a plant species that includes many common cultivars, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, collard greens, Savoy cabbage, kohlrabi, and gai lan.





Cichorium intybusCichorium intybus

Known as chicory, it is a woody, perennial herbaceous plant of the daisy family Asteraceae, featuring bright blue flowers. It can be used as a coffee substitute and food additive.





Datura fastuosa (Devil’s Trumpet)Datura fastuosa (Devil’s Trumpet)

Datura is a poisonous, vespertine-flowering plant belonging to the family Solanacea.  Also called thornapples, jimsonweeds, devil trumpets, moonflower, devil’s weed, and hell’s bells, they have psychoactive properties, and can cause arrhythmias, fever, hallucinations, psychoses, and even death if taken internally. It has been associated with witchcraft in the western world.



Papaver somniferumPapaver somniferum

Papaver somniferum, commonly known as the opium poppy or breadseed poppy. It probably originated in the eastern Mediterranean region but is now naturalized across much of Europe and Asia.





Tulipae gesnerianae

Tulipae gesnerianae

Tulipa gesneriana, also known as the Didier’s tulip or Garden tulip, is a species of plant in the lily family. It is believed to have originated in Turkey although tulips are the national flower of Holland.





Tropaeoli minerisTropaeoli mineris

A species of flowering plant in the family Tropaeolacea, originating in the Andes from Bolivia north to Colombia. The current genus name Tropaeolum, coined by Carl Linnaeus, meaning “little trophy”(in Latin), and borrowed from Ancient Greek “trophy.”




Agaricus mucariusAgaricus mucarius

Bright red fly agaric mushroom, also known as Amanita muscaria, from northern Europe and Asia.  It can contain the psychoactive chemical compound muscarine. “No mushroom has gathered unto it more folklore and mythology than this white-spotted fairytale fungus. It may well be that Lewis Carrol had experienced the hallucinatory effects of Amanita muscaria. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice eats part of one side of a mushroom and grows shorter; a piece from the other side would make her taller.” Agaricus is a remedy for twitches, jerks, tics, cramps, and convulsions.

Morchella crassipes persoon (Thick-footed morel)Morchella crassipes persoon (Thick-footed morel)

A morel with a conic fertile portion having deep and irregular pits. The generic name Morchella is said to come from “morchel,” an old German word meaning “mushroom.” Morels are edible mushrooms appreciated worldwide for their savory flavor. They have also been used in medicines for centuries.



Thelephora hirsuta persoonThelephora hirsuta persoon

Fruit bodies of this mushroom are leathery, usually brownish at maturity, and range in shape from coral-like tufts to having distinct caps. Almost all species in the genus are thought to be inedible.





Helvella infula persoonHelvella infula persoon

Helvella is an ascomycete fungus from the genus Gyromitra which is widely distributed across Europe and North America. It normally fruits in sandy soils under coniferous trees in spring and early summer. The mushroom is an irregular brain-shaped cap that is dark brown in color. It can be poisonous, if eaten raw or not cooked properly.



Morchella patula persoonMorchella patula persoon

Morchella is a type of morel. Morels are a feature of many cuisines. Their unique flavor is prized by chefs worldwide. They have many species names which have been disputed for over a century.





Juniperus communis (tree)Juniperus communis (tree)

The common juniper is a species of small tree or shrub in the cypress (Cupressaceae) family. This evergreen conifer has the largest geographical range of any woody plant. The cones are used to flavor certain beers and gin. The word “gin” derives from an Old French word meaning “juniper.” The berries are also used in the ales of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and Latvia. They have been used as medicine by many cultures including the Navajo people.