John Dunlap, Charlottesville’s First Printer

The Philadelphia printer John Dunlap (1747-1812) is best known for having printed the so-called “Dunlap Broadside”—the first printing of the Declaration of Independence—of which the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library is privileged to possess two of the 26 known copies.  Less well known is Dunlap’s distinction as the person responsible for bringing printing to Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1781.  On the eve of July 4th, and in celebration of having acquired our very first John Dunlap Charlottesville imprint, here is the story of Dunlap’s brief career as Charlottesville’s pioneer printer.

Title page of U.Va.’s newly acquired 1781 Charlottesville imprint, the first and only item from Charlottesville’s first press to have entered the U.Va. Library collections.

Eighteenth-century American printers were eager for significant business and steady cash flow, which were more easily obtained through newspaper publishing and government printing contracts than through other printing work. John Dunlap did well on both accounts. He immigrated from Ireland to Philadelphia in 1757 and, after serving an apprenticeship in his uncle’s printing establishment, took over the business. In 1771 Dunlap launched the weekly Pennsylvania Packet, or the General Advertiser. Taking advantage of his Philadelphia location and the urgent need for public printing during the American Revolution, Dunlap secured printing contracts not only for the state of Pennsylvania, but also for the Continental Congress.

The two-line imprint crediting John Dunlap and James Hayes as Charlottesville’s first printers. Although undated, this work was printed during September and October of 1781.

In August of 1780, Dunlap expanded his public printing portfolio to Virginia. Directed by Virginia’s House of Delegates to engage a public printer, then-Governor Thomas Jefferson recommended acceptance of the proposal submitted by Dunlap and his business partner (and former apprentice) James Hayes. That fall a press and supply of printing types was dispatched to Richmond, where Hayes was to establish and manage a printing office. But its opening was delayed when the shipment fell into British hands. A second press was sent from Philadelphia to Richmond, and Hayes was at long last able to begin printing in April 1781.

A two-page opening from the Acts Passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia (Charlottesville, 1781).

The following month, however, the arrival of British forces under General Cornwallis prompted Virginia’s state government to flee Richmond, first to Charlottesville, and then to Staunton. Hayes packed up his printing equipment and followed. But in late June, near Charlottesville on his way back from Staunton, Hayes was captured by the British and then released on condition that he not print “until properly exchanged.” This was soon arranged, and in July 1781 Hayes set up his press in Charlottesville. It remained in operation into October, but by early December Hayes had relocated the press to Richmond. All the while Dunlap remained in Philadelphia.

The list of acts contained in the 1781 Virginia session laws printed in Charlottesville.

In its three months of operation, the first Charlottesville press is known to have printed at least four items: two broadsides, the 52-page Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia for 1781, and the 1781 Virginia session laws. It is a copy of this last publication—a 20-page folio publication titled Acts Passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia—that has now been acquired by U.Va.  Given the constraints under which Hayes is known to have operated, it is tolerably well printed, bearing the Virginia seal on its title page above the two-line imprint:  CHARLOTTESVILLE: Printed by John Dunlap and James Hayes, Printers to the Commonwealth.

John Cook Wyllie’s bibliographical description of the 1781 Virginia session laws (Charlottesville, 1781) with (at bottom) a census of copies known ca. 1960.

All four known 1781 Charlottesville imprints were printed by Hayes in his role as public printer, and all are very rare. It is likely, however, that Hayes printed a few other items, e.g., broadsides, printed forms, and other jobbing work, during his Charlottesville sojourn. Some day we may be able to identify these through careful typographical analysis. The history of Charlottesville’s first press has yet to be written–this précis is based on unpublished research by former U.Va. Librarian John Cook Wyllie, which is available for consultation in the Small Special Collections Library.

Following Hayes’ departure, Charlottesville would remain without a printing press for another four decades, until Clement P. and J.H. McKennie established a newspaper, The Central Gazette, in 1820.

ABCs of Special Collections: Q is for…

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving!  We welcome you back to our alphabetical series with selections from the letter

"Q" from the "Cut Roman" font.  From Design of the Roman Letters by L'Harl Copeland, 1966. (Z114 .C75 1966. Gift of Mrs. Oscar Ogg. Image by Petrina Jackson)

“Q” from the “Cut Roman” face in Design of the Roman Letters by L’Harl Copeland, 1966. (Z114 .C75 1966. Gift of Mrs. Oscar Ogg. Image by Petrina Jackson)

Q is for Quadroon

Special Collections has a fascinating array of the many works published on the plight of the quadroon. The term “quadroon” was used historically throughout the Americas to refer to the large number of woman who were one-quarter black. Linked to taboo sex across color lines, the term and subject matter flourished not only in literature, but in American society, long after slavery in America ended.

Contributed by Petrina Jackson, Head of Instruction and Outreach

(Image by Caroline Newcomb)

Frontispiece and title page of Zoe, or The Quadroon’s Triumph by Mrs. Elizabeth D. Livermore, 1855. (PS2248 .L45 Z6 1855. Purchased from the Robert & Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund, 2002/2003. Image by Caroline Newcomb)

(Image by Caroline Newcomb)

First page of the poem, “The Quadroon Girl” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from the Leeds Anti-slavery Series, No. 50, ca. 1852. (PS2271. Q82 1852. Image by Caroline Newcomb)

Q is for George Quasha

The American poet and artist, George Quasha is perhaps best known for his “axial stone” sculptures and his  Asian-influenced books of poetry, often published in collaboration with other artists and poets. His performance pieces have been known to incorporate sound, drawing, music, video, poetry and sculpture. A look at our online catalog lists three records related to George Quasha: collaborations with Dan Gerber (1969), Allen Ginsberg (1974), and Jerome Rothenberg (1996).

A link to view some of George Quasha’s axial stone sculptures can be found at:

Contributed by George Riser, Collections and Instruction Assistant

(PS615 .E523 1974. Image by Petrina Jackson)

Shown is a portion of Quasha’s poem, “Shifting Side or Sands of Thought” from Allen Ginsberg’s 8 from Naropa. (PS615 .E523 1974. Purchased from the William & Elizabeth Morris Fund, 2003/2004. Image by Petrina Jackson)

Q is for Queen Charlotte

Her Serene Highness, Princess Sophia Charlotte was born May 19, 1744, the youngest daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a north German duchy in the Holy Roman Empire. She became Queen Consort of the United Kingdom on marrying King George III in 1761. Though she never visited the New World, more than a dozen cities, counties, and geographical features were named in Charlotte’s honor including both the city of Charlottesville and Mecklenburg County in Virginia.

Contributed by Edward Gaynor, Head of Description and Specialist for Virginiana and University Archives

(Image by Digital Curation Services)

Engraving of Queen Charlotte by Sir William Beechey, 1809. (MSS 10213. Image by Digital Curation Services)


(Image by Digital Curation Services)

A Plan of the Town of Charlottesville, 1818. (G3884.C4 1818 .P5. Image by Digital Curation Services)

See you in a couple of weeks when we have our last letter of 2013, the letter “R.”

This Just In: Rolling in the Stacks with the Charlottesville Derby Dames

This week, we feature a guest post from Charlottesville Derby Dame Grëtel vön Metäl, also known as Gretchen Gueguen.

When we here at the Small Library think about new materials we would like to add to our collections we take many factors into consideration: the research quality of the content, connections to the University’s curriculum or history, or alignment with our core collecting areas. Given the breadth of subject, time period, and format of our collections we often come across materials that will complement or counterpoint something we already own, even though at first glance it might not seem to fit with everything else.

Such is the story of how we made our newest acquisition, the Charlottesville Derby Dames Records. The Dames are a non-profit women’s sport club here in Charlottesville founded in 2007. My day-job at the library is Digital Archivist, but on the flat-track I am known as “Grëtel vön Metäl.” When I mentioned one day that I was going to be skating with the Dames in an upcoming match (called a “bout” in derby parlance), our current Head of Technical Services, Edward Gaynor, immediately suggested that a collection of Dames materials would make an excellent complement to our collections of the papers of various local and regional “ladies’ clubs” such as The Garden Club or the Ladies’ Sewing Society. When researchers come to the Reading Room to look at these collections they are usually studying the ways in which women construct their identities in public: how do they present themselves? what kinds of activities do they become involved in? what can these things tell us about women’s roles?

A screenshot of the Dames’ website, ca. 2012 (MSS MSS 15490).  Compare with the Team’s current page:

A screenshot of the Dames’ website, ca. 2012 (MSS 15490). Compare with the Team’s current page:

The sport of roller derby began in the late 1800s as endurance skating races. They were a popular activity for both sexes until entrepreneurs Leo Seltzer and Damon Runyon formed professional leagues featuring women in the 1930s and added elements of competition and physical contact. The sport was immensely popular, a staple of television, until the 70s. While the fights were often staged, the women skaters were skilled athletes.

Roller derby in the fifties was pretty rough and tumble, but with no protective gear (image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs division:

Roller derby in the fifties was pretty rough and tumble, but skaters wore no protective gear (image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs division:

Roller derby began its resurgence in the early 2000s in Austin, Texas. Doing away with the traditional banked track and playing on a flat oval made it easier to find a place to skate – anywhere you can find a big flat space, you can play roller derby (although a few leagues still use a banked track). The game quickly spread across the country and even across the globe. By 2013 over 1,200 leagues had formed on every continent but Antarctica, and men’s, junior’s, and co-ed leagues are growing in numbers as well.

Derby has a growing fan-base, and an even more passionate following among those who play it. Women’s roller derby is especially known for the colorful personas adopted by players, symbolized by their adopted “Derby Names.” The sport itself requires a high degree of athleticism combining strength, endurance, skill, and strategy, but on the flat track skaters can be as menacing (Soulfearic Acid), tough (Punky Bruiser), flirty (Sexy Sladie), or playful (Snot Rocket Science) as they want to be.


Today the Dames play with helmets, knee and elbow pads and wrist guards. This photo is from a bout in 2012 at Charlottesville’s Main Street Arena against the Charm City Rollergirls of Baltimore, Maryland (MSS 15490. photo by Dan Purdy).

The newly acquired Derby Dames collection here at UVa is unusual in more than just its subject. It was also a chance for us to acquire a modern collection composed almost entirely of electronic materials. As the Dames have only just recently formed, all of our operational documents, promotional material, and ephemera are created as electronic documents and most are never printed. While the library has collected about 30 posters, handbills, programs, and other ephemera, we’ve also collected more than 12,000 electronic documents including bylaws and policies, meeting minutes, graphics, photos, video, and websites.

I worked with the Dames to download a copy of all of the team’s working files from a shared Google Documents folder. These files were immediately copied for safe keeping and stored on an external hard drive. Next, I used specialized software to create listings of all of the files present and some technical details of each. A key piece of information is what’s called a “checksum” – a kind of digital fingerprint in the form of a numerical code created by running an algorithm on the contents of a file. That file and only that particular file will create that particular checksum. This allows me to verify that files haven’t been corrupted or tampered with over time.

After organizing and removing duplicates from the collection, I uploaded the new collection to networked library storage and created a finding aid. Future work will include creating a searchable, online archive of the documents (access will be available on Grounds in the Reading Room initially) and working with the Library IT department to ensure the long-term preservation of the content within the Library and University’s larger IT infrastructure. This work will not only ensure the future access to the Derby Dames collection, but will pave the way for more electronic collections to come.

On View Now, in Celebration of Martin Luther King Day.

Special Collections faculty member Ervin Jordan has curated an exhibition entitled, “Embracing Equality: Before and Beyond Brown v. Board of Education, 1950-1969: An American Civil Rights Exhibition.”  The exhibit highlights local, state and national Civil Rights events through selected legislation, letters, reports, speeches, and photographs including:

  • the 1950 lawsuit of Gregory Swanson, the University of Virginia’s first African-American student;
  • a printed copy of the United States Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education;
  • the 1961 letter of a African-American schoolgirl who complains about desegregation
  • a program and route map for the 1963 March on Washington;
  • a 1964 Martin Luther King letter discussing the Civil Rights Movement’s “non-violent army”
  • UVA administrator William Elwood’s advisory document prepared for a public meeting at a black Charlottesville church on impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 upon public schools

“Embracing Equality” will be on display at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, First Floor Lobby, until March 1, 2013.

March on Washington program and route map, August 28, 1963. (MSS 8003-A, Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)