Tales from Under Grounds: Alcohol, Marijuana, Insanity, and Ads

This is the first in a series of four posts, spotlighting the mini-exhibitions of students from USEM 1570: Researching History.

Last fall semester, I had the pleasure of teaching USEM 1570: Researching History, a course I designed with the purpose of introducing undergraduates to the wonderful, yet painstaking world of primary source research.  Sixteen undergraduates took on the challenge of the class and for a semester were immersed in searching for, finding, and evaluating the wealth of materials in Special Collections.  Their final assignment was to create a mini-exhibition, telling a particular story with only five items of varying formats. After creating the exhibitions, they presented them at their outreach program, Tales from Under Grounds. The program was a success!  I wish everyone could have been there to see their great work.

USEM students due mock presentations of their mini-exhibitions in preparation for Tales from Under Grounds.

USEM student Adam Hawes does a practice presentation of his mini-exhibition as his classmates look on.

For those who could not make it, I present to you the second best thing: Tales from Under Grounds in its abridged version as captured in each student’s own words.

Note: only two selections per student are shown.


Jenna Parker, First-Year Student

Photograph of Jenna Parker by Sanjay Suchak, 19 November 2013.

Photograph of Jenna Parker by Sanjay Suchak, 19 November 2013.

Bottoms Up: Drinking in America in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Despite the various Temperance Movements in the United States in the 19th century, drinking was always a very popular part of American society, and attempts to curb the American cultural trait of drinking just popularized the habit even more.  It was not an uncommon practice for drinking to start at breakfast and for children to drink as well.

This display showcases a unique recipe for beer from Thomas Jefferson, a cookbook with numerous recipes for alcoholic beverages, a musical score from a popular drinking song, Charles Dickens’ liquor flask, and alcohol trade catalogs.  These items serve to demonstrate how commonplace drinking was in American culture and society at a time when drinking was both expected and discouraged.

Charles Dicken's flask

Charles Dickens’s Glass Liquor Flask. This glass spirit flask is the one that the famous British author Charles Dickens carried with him while he was traveling in the United States. (MSS 10562. Image by Digitization Services)

A note from Charles Dickens to

A note from Charles Dickens to his sister-in-law and housekeeper Georgina Hogarth with household instructions, which was included with the flask. (MSS 10562. Image by Digitization Services)

(MSS 10562. Image by Digitization Services)

A note from Georgina Hogarth certifying the authenticity of the flask.(MSS 10562. Image by Digitization Services)


These trade catalogs are from around 1887-1914, and advertise liquor from Heller Bros., the “Oldest, Largest, Leading, and most Prompt Mail Order Liquor Merchants and Wholesale Beer Agents in the South”. The company was based in the city of Bristol, VA-TN. (TS199 .A5 A6 no. 01. Albert H. Small American Trade Catalogs Collection. Image by Petrina Jackson)


Aaron Clyman, First-Year Student

Photograph of Aaron Clyman by Sanjay Suchak, 19 November 2013.

Photograph of Aaron Clyman by Sanjay Suchak, 19 November 2013.

Cannabis Calumny in Capitalist America

This exhibit focuses on the relationship between the United States and the plant cannabis. This includes, the more commonly known form, marijuana, and industrial hemp, which are quite different despite being legally lumped together. The majority of the items in the exhibit regard misinformation that the public has been given regarding this political issue.

The main focus of these items should be the various scientific aspects because, as this is a highly factual issue, they must be held in the highest regard. Inside many items there are scientific studies, complete or partial, which have unanimous conclusions contrary to general notions on the matter. In this lies the true issue, people making decisions on misinformation, which inevitably leads to the misinformed policy seen today.

Pot Art

Pot Art by stone mountain, published by Apocrypha Books, 1970. This book is a collection of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, photos, comics, surveys, and more all regarding Cannabis and it’s accompanying culture. The majority of these serve to be informational or entertaining, all in all creating a complete collection. (HV5822 .M3 S86 1970. Marvin Tatum Collection of Contemporary Literature. Image by Petrina Jackson)

Cover of

Cover of The Marijuana Convictionby Richard Bonnie and Charles Whitebread II, published by the University Press of Virginia, 1974. This book discusses the relationship that Cannabis and the United States have had throughout the country’s history. Inside is a report from NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) which gives a full synopsis Cannabis and its use, including user stereotypes, side effects, genetic damage, addiction, the gateway theory, and criminal implications. (HV5822 .M3 B66. Image by Petrina Jackson)


Megan Strait, First-Year Student

Photograph of Megan Strait by Sanjay Suchak, 19 November 2013.

Photograph of Megan Strait by Sanjay Suchak, 19 November 2013.

“Who’s Loony Now?”

The scandalous story of John (a.k.a Archie) Armstrong Chaloner’s false commitment to Bloomingdale, an insane asylum in New York, is a tumultuous tale. In 1893, Archie envisioned a textile mill town in North Carolina that he christened Roanoke Rapids.  He drafted his siblings, especially his younger brother, Winty, to invest in the town. Winty, who was originally excited about the idea, felt that Archie’s spending was out of control.  So, when Archie came forward with his self-proclaimed ability to tap into his unconscious (the “X-Faculty”), Winty took the opportunity to lure him to New York where he was unfairly tried, declared insane, and institutionalized.

After four years, Archie escaped from the asylum and returned to New York to press charges. Archie petitioned the Supreme Court, won the case and was awarded $30,000, however “the judge immediately halved the award.”  The win was what was important to him—his family surrendered the property they’d taken from him, and he was more or less able to rebuild his life.

Portrait of

Portrait of J. A. Chaloner by Rufus Holsinger, 1918.  Chaloner’s hair and position’s semblance to Napoleon is no coincidence—Chaloner believed that he bore a great likeness to Napoleon.  He was a huge fan of the infamous ruler—paintings and busts of Napoleon were spread throughout his estate, and it was his image that Chaloner assumed when under the influence of the X-Faculty. (MSS 9862. Holsinger Studio Collection. Image by Digitization Services)

(Image by Petrina Jackson)

Letter from Mary Elizabeth Breen to Archie, 1901. Breen congratulates Archie on his escape from Bloomingdale.  She says that she had a friend who was falsely committed to Bloomingdale as well.  She also sends a four-leaf clover to wish his new book, The X-Faculty, which explained his self-proclaimed mental abilities, success. (MSS 38-394-e. Gift of George Worthington. Image by Petrina Jackson)


Amelia Garcia, First-Year Student

Amelia Garcia (right) talks to English graduate student and Special Collections employee about an advertisement from the 1950s, 19 November 2013. (Photograph by Sanjay Suchak)

Amelia Garcia (right) talks to English graduate student and Special Collections employee about an advertisement from the 1950s, 19 November 2013. (Photograph by Sanjay Suchak)

Advertising to Americans: The 1950s

The 1950s was characterized as the decade of consumerism as the prosperous postwar economy served as a hotbed for advertisers. Upon analyzing the advertisements showcased in Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post, Life, and Ladies’ Home Journal, one can get a sense for how idealized life was like in the 50s. Overlapping themes in these periodicals’ ads include: wholesome family values, established women’s roles, smoking popularity, and a fascination with air travel.

Advertising during this period reflected a conscious return to traditional family values. The idea of a domesticated woman was also prevalent in 1950s advertising as most female-directed ads were for food, household appliances, beauty, or children’s products. During this time period, tobacco companies fought to yield the highest profit since smoking was cool, cheap, and socially acceptable. Americans were also mesmerized by commercial flying. Marketers capitalized on this to sell anything from shoes to club memberships, using the catchy term, the “Jet Age.”

Note: Students had the option of creating a digital story for Tales from Under Grounds, and Amelia, alone, chose it.  Check out her amazing digital story on Advertising to Americans: The 1950s:

This Just In: Scarlet Letters from the Backlog

Every Special Collections library has a number of mysterious boxes that for some reason or another have never been dealt with–gifts with mysterious provenances, duplicate copies, a collection that someone was working on but for some reason never finished, and so on. U.Va. is no exception, though we do pride ourselves on how small that backlog is, and how well-described our cataloged materials are.

Soon after starting this job, I was tasked, with my co-hire David Whitesell, to dig into the backlog. For many months now, we have each enjoyed tackling a box or two on a quiet afternoon at the reference desk, or whenever the temptation is too strong and more pressing work is set aside.

Much of the pleasure of curatorial work comes from the element of surprise–unexpected gifts, unexpected acquisitions opportunities, unexpected discoveries in the stacks, unexpected researcher projects, and so on. So I was thrilled to find one day recently, mixed with various unremarkable volumes in a box, two early copies of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. I was even more thrilled to discover that neither came near to duplicating the numerous early copies already in our collection.

Existing holdings in early printings of the novel accompanied by the two books that will soon join them on our shelves.The dull brown covers were, in their day, a mark of great prestige, since they were the signature of the highly regarded publishers  Ticknor and Fields.

Seven existing Scarlet Letters accompanied by two volumes that will soon join them on our shelves. The dull brown covers were a mark of literary prestige, since they were the signature of the highly regarded Boston publishing house of Ticknor, Reed and Fields.

The Second Edition Advertisements

The Scarlet Letter was a huge success from the moment it was published. Released on March 16, 1850, the first edition of 2,500 copies sold quickly. On April 22nd, the second edition was released. It also comprised 2,500 copies, and is easily identified because it includes an additional preface by Hawthorne, in which he responds to criticisms of the famous essay that prefaces the novel, “The Custom House.”

Our three cataloged copies of the second edition vary dramatically in condition and paratexts. All but one have bookplates, and all three have advertisements. The publishers added to each copy a multi-page advertising insert variously titled “New Books and New Editions” or “A List of Books Recently Published,” all beginning with the publisher’s Longfellow list.  The three copies have inserts dated March 1850 and May 1850 (in two copies).

Notably, the newly unearthed copy has an advertising insert dated October 1849, which is the earliest insert of any copy of this novel in our collection. Presumably, the insert was lifted from a stack of old leftovers, since the book could not have been bound before the spring of 1850.

The images below show a variety of advertisements from the first three editions of the novel, all published in 1850.


Detail of the advertisement in one of our copies of the first edition. (PS 1868 .A1 1850. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Randolph Catlin. Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg)


Detail of the advertisement in the soon-to-be-added copy of the second edition. (Uncataloged. Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg)


Detail of the advertisement in one of our copies of the third edition, the first to be printed from stereotyped plates, and which appeared in September, 1850 (A 1850 .H39 S3a. Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History. Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg)

An 1854 impression

The other volume found in the backlog is unquestionably unique to our collection, as the only standalone copy of the novel we own with an imprint date of 1854 (a collected works edition we hold is also dated that year). It is printed from the stereotyped plates produced in late 1850 for the third edition. The only 1854 printing, it totaled 500 copies, and brought the total number of copies of the novel’s American standalone editions alone to 10,300.

So, Hawthorne fans and bibliographers, we encourage you to come by in a few weeks when these new additions have been cataloged, snugly housed, and added to the shelves alongside their brethren!


Our new second edition, on the left, and third edition, 1854 printing, on the right. The yellowed slips in the book show how long these have waited for their moment in the sun (and in Virgo, our online catalog). The origins of these volumes are lost to the sands of time.