Collaborative Curation: Cori Field on Student Exhibitions

This week, we are pleased to feature a guest post by Cori Field of the Women, Gender & Sexuality Program. Cori is an exceptional colleague who really “gets” what an exhibition can do for her students. We are so lucky to have worked with her on the exhibition described below.

The “Sounds and Silences of Black Girlhood” exhibition resulted from a remarkable collaboration between undergraduates in the Women, Gender & Sexuality Program and Library staff. Finding archival sources by and about black girls is difficult even for professional historians because most collections are organized around the concerns of white adults. Undaunted, UVA students eagerly stepped up to the challenge. With the help of Molly Schwartzburg, Holly Robertson, and Erin Pappas, they identified a wide range of materials in Special Collections related to the global history of black girlhood, researched the significance of those items, and designed a compelling exhibit focused around the core themes of identity, resistance, and voice. In addition to curating the exhibit, they wrote longer articles about each item.

A screenshot of the blog that accompanies the exhibition. We encourage visitors to check it out to see the students’ hard work.


The key to this project was advanced planning. When I first decided to teach an advanced undergraduate seminar on the “Global History of Black Girlhood,” I met with Molly Schwartzburg to ask if it would be possible to produce a public history project from materials in Special Collections. Molly eagerly embraced the idea, volunteered her time, and most importantly, advised me on how to structure assignments so that students could complete the separate components of an exhibit on time. This early consultation enabled me to write an effective syllabus structured around the final project.

Because WGS is an interdisciplinary program, I knew most students in the seminar would not be historians and would likely be unfamiliar with archival research. To further complicate matters, sources on black girls are often hidden in larger collections and difficult to locate. It was therefore essential to provide students with some preliminary guide to relevant sources. The best resource was the expertise of Molly, Edward Gaynor, and other staff who pointed to numerous collections with promising material. Over the summer, Angel Nash, a Ph.D. student in the Curry School, worked with Edward and Molly to identify more sources and construct a bibliography of archival holdings at UVA related to black girlhood. By handing out this bibliography on the first day of class, I was able to give students the information they needed to hit the ground running.

Molly then met with class to discuss strategies for locating other types of sources. This became a history lesson in itself as students discussed the changing language of race and the complications of searching for people categorized variously as African, Negro, colored, African American, or black. Molly helped students to think about how different types of sources—for example, eighteenth-century travelogues, nineteenth-century wills, or early twentieth-century photographs—might prompt different types of research questions. Finally, she helped students figure out how to pursue their own interests by studying the past.

The best part came next as students went into Special Collections. Within two weeks, everyone in the class had identified a primary source that interested them and developed a plan for further research. The range of sources was amazing. For example, Nodjimadji Stringfellow found a 1820 memoir by a British official stationed on the Gold Coast. Dhanya Chittaranjan located a deed from a planter who presented his young granddaughter with the gift of an enslaved girl—”Martha Jane about six years old.” Diana Wilson, Emma McCallie, and Ivory Ibuaka all picked very different photographs from the Jackson Davis Collection. Lucas Dvorscak focused on a 1972 children’s book that retold the story of Alice in Wonderland with a black protagonist.  Samantha Josey-Borden found an original edition of Ntozake Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. Other students found sources exploring black girls’ labor; resistance to sexual violence; creativity; and political organizing.

Some of the curators of the exhibition at the opening celebration with their instructor, Cori Field (far right).

The next challenge was to combine these materials into a coherent exhibit. Once again, Molly provided guidance, encouraging students to begin with the exhibition space. We went to the exhibition hall, looked at the cases, and talked about how different items might fit. We then returned to the seminar room and discussed organizational strategies. Students quickly rejected a geographical or chronological approach and decided to organize the exhibit around key themes—but what themes? Together, students brainstormed ideas, eliminated some, voted for others and grouped their items into three broad categories of identity, resistance, and voice. They also thought about the physical properties of the items themselves and came up with the idea of enlarging two particularly striking images and hanging these on the wall as the entry to the exhibit.

Two of the three exhibition cases that make up the exhibition.

The next challenge was locating secondary sources that would provide some historical context for every student. The subjet liaison for WGS, Erin Pappas, consulted with the whole class and then worked with individual students facing particularly difficult challenges. Some students who initially thought they couldn’t find any relevant information experienced the thrill of locating material, as when Erin helped Emily Breeding find information about the Lynchburg NAACP at Emory University. A quick call to Emory produced the information Emily needed for her article.

Condensing all of the information students had found into succinct labels was the greatest challenge of the course. Students were shocked to realize how little can be said in 150 words. Through multiple drafts, rigorous peer editing, and feedback from Molly and Holly, students all succeeded in crafting labels that draw the viewer in to the exhibit without providing too much detail. Writing longer articles enabled students to develop their insights in more detail for the accompanying blog.

Throughout this course, the students worked incredibly hard both on their own projects and on their thoughtful contributions to the collective project. I have never seen undergraduates edit each other’s work with such care and insight. The knowledge that this work mattered, that the exhibit would be available to the general public and visiting scholars, inspired a level of commitment and mutual support that is truly rare—in undergraduate seminars and in workplaces more generally. The students learned important skills in managing a complex project, working with others, and contributing to a shared product. At moments, they got incredibly frustrated, but then pulled together and took the project to a higher level. It was a true joy to be involved in this project.

Visitors interact with the blog on an iPad and peruse the artifacts on display during the exhibition opening party.

“The Sounds and Silences of Black Girlhood” will be on view in the first floor gallery at the Harrison-Small building through March 24, 2017.

Mining the Ores of Breece D’J Pancake’s Life and Works

This week’s post is contributed by two visiting undergraduate researchers, Megan Flanery and Hunter Walsh, who traveled all the way from Southern Georgia University to examine our Breece D’J Pancake manuscript collection. They represent a growing demographic of Special Collections researchers, and one that we value deeply here at UVA: undergraduates with an understanding of the importance and value of archival research. Thank you, Megan and Hunter, for sharing your experience with us here on the blog!


My colleague, Hunter Walsh, and I are both fourth-year undergraduate students at Georgia Southern University, and we will be graduating in the fall of this year. We were first introduced to Breece Pancake’s short story collection in 2014, when we studied his text under the direction of Dr. Olivia Carr Edenfield during her course on the American short story. Although we approach Pancake’s fiction from very different angles, both Mr. Walsh and I will present our undergraduate capstone projects on Pancake’s work. Our archival work at The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library has broadened our understanding of Pancake’s short, yet accomplished life. Our ultimate goal is to shed light on Breece Pancake, an under-appreciated Appalachian author, and we hope to bring new perspectives to the limited critical conversation that surrounds his fiction.

, Megan Flanery is 21 years old and currently a senior at Georgia Southern University. Here, she will earn a BA in English with a minor in Philosophy, and she plans to continue her studies by attending graduate school at East Carolina University. The focus of her scholarship is American literature, particularly that of the twentieth century. She enjoys reading the works of authors such as Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, J.D. Salinger, Eudora Welty, Raymond Carver, Cormac McCarthy and, especially, Breece Pancake.

Originally from Michigan but now a Georgia resident, Megan Flanery is 21 years old and currently a senior at Georgia Southern University. Here, she will earn a BA in English with a minor in Philosophy, and she plans to continue her studies by attending graduate school at East Carolina University. The focus of her scholarship is American literature, particularly that of the twentieth century. She enjoys reading the works of authors such as Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, J.D. Salinger, Eudora Welty, Raymond Carver, Cormac McCarthy and, especially, Breece Pancake.


Megan and I uncovered a countless amount of material. We found family photographs, postcards, interviews, and even personal letters from and to Breece Pancake. For me, these are all extremely interesting artifacts and sources that have really molded my study of Pancake’s work. The material I recovered has shed new light on his personal life and his relationships. Since I am interested in the family unit in Breece Pancake’s short fiction, this research has really opened up my reading. Breece’s biographical accounts of his life and his own admission to incorporating true elements into his writing offered even more insight into the familial relations in his writing. This was my first time doing archival research and I cannot thank the University of Virginia and Professor John Casey enough for allowing me this opportunity. The staff at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library were friendly and a tremendous support as well.

Hunter Walsh is an English major and Writing minor. He hails from Bristol, Virginia and is recipient of the 2015 Powell Award for Fiction Writing. His paper, “The Family in the Life and Works of Breece D’J Pancake,” examines the life and writings of Breece D’J Pancake. It documents Pancake’s personal experience with family and isolation, while highlighting these themes, via his experiences and perceptions, in his short fiction.

Hunter Walsh is an English major and Writing minor. He hails from Bristol, Virginia and is recipient of the 2015 Powell Award for Fiction Writing. His paper, “The Family in the Life and Works of Breece D’J Pancake,” examines the life and writings of Breece D’J Pancake. It documents Pancake’s personal experience with family and isolation, while highlighting these themes, via his experiences and perceptions, in his short fiction.

One of the most useful documents we unearthed is a catalog of the real sites and locations that have been included in Pancake’s work, written by his mother, Helen Frazier Pancake:

Box 1 of MSS10975-e, folder 5, holds a document titled “The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake – Locations and Sites,” written by Helen Pancake, Breece’s mother. The various sites, of which Pancake was well-acquainted, reveal how Pancake weaved his own memories into his fiction.

“The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake – Locations and Sites,” written by Helen Pancake, Breece’s mother. The various sites, with which Pancake was well-acquainted, reveal how Pancake weaved his own memories into his fiction. (MSS 10975-e 1.5)

My thesis is centered on memory and the negative effects of rumination and obsessive nostalgia; therefore, my research on Pancake’s own life has been crucial to understanding the ways in which memories affected him. His last letter, written to his major professor, Dr. John Casey, is filled with memories that Pancake was fixated upon:

Box 1 of MSS10975-a, folder 5, holds Breece Pancake’s last piece of correspondence. Shown here is the signature line, where he thanks the recipient, UVA’s Henry Hoynes Professor of Creative Writing John Casey. In the body of tje letter, he lists the various dates of the significant, yet traumatic, events that weighed on him. Two weeks after this letter was composed, Breece took his own life.









Although our study of Pancake’s life was dejecting at times, it allowed us both to appreciate Breece Pancake as a person, and not just as a writer. For now, our findings will be applied to some aspects of his fiction to highlight Pancake’s vexing themes; however, I plan to use this wealth of information to compose eventually a book-length study of Pancake’s life and works.



Glimpses of Lafcadio Hearn in Virginia

This week we are pleased to share a guest post by Rodger Steele Williamson, who is a professor at the University of Kitakyushu, Japan. Professor Williamson spent several months over the last year working in the Lafcadio Hearn collection in the Barrett Library of American Literature. Professor Williamson was a cheerful and vibrant addition to our community during his time here and we miss him (and his pastry-chef wife’s delectable and elegant treats, delivered at impressive intervals to the staff break room!).

In Japan the names Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) or Koizumi Yakumo, his name after adoption into his Japanese wife’s family register, are synonymous with ghost stories or nostalgic and exotic tales of Japanese cultural heritage. Today Hearn is renowned by the Japanese public for his advocacy, respect, and praise for what he viewed as refined and even superior cultural traits of Japanese culture and society that disappeared with the rapid modernization that characterized the Meiji Era (1868-1912). If one mentions him to locals in the two major American cities (Cincinnati and New Orleans) that he called home for a total of almost twenty years, you most likely get a blank stare.

Outside of most academic circles Hearn is relatively unknown in a country he called home for nearly twice as long as Japan. His many publications on Japan (all of which may be found at the University of Virginia) had been the cornerstone of any American studies on Japan until he was essentially blacklisted due to Japanese use of his writings as propaganda during World War II; also damaging was the fact that he took Japanese citizenship to protect his family at a time when marrying a non-citizen would have meant his wife’s loss of rights as a Japanese.

In contrast to the United States, Hearn studies thrive in Japan, where numerous books, mostly in Japanese, continue to be written about his life and works. Interestingly, there are many Japanese who do not even realize that all of Hearn’s works are available in English and are widely available online for free, making them great resources for English-language classroom readings.

A longtime resident of Japan, I was, in fact, introduced to Hearn in Virginia, by my history professor at the University of Richmond: around that time there were several new publications related to the centennial of Hearn’s arrival in Japan (1890). That led to research in the Hearn holdings in the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Liteature at U.Va. and then graduate studies in Japan. I had the great privilege of writing my dissertation at Kumamoto University, where Hearn taught at the Higher Middle School from 1891 to 1894. I am fortunate to have come full circle with an investigation of Hearn’s Irish and American roots (even though he was never an American citizen).

Clifton Waller Barrett (1901-1991), 1920 alumnus of the University of Virginia, wrote in 1983 that, “In 1939 I made a decision that brought about a radical change in my life. I decided to amass a comprehensive collection of American Literature.” Writing on the occasion of a U.Va. Library exhibition of his Hearn collection, he stated, “One writer who stood out in this group was Lafcadio Hearn. His amazing originality, combined with the unusual beauty and quality of his writing had won praise from discriminating critics; however, in the years of World War II and the decade following he was neglected.”  During his lifetime Lafcadio Hearn never mentioned any personal connections with Virginia or the University of Virginia but scholars of Hearn owe much gratitude to the pursuits of Clifton Waller Barrett in building “a representative collection of Hearn’s printed works and manuscripts most particularly.” One might say it is now the greatest depository of Hearn related materials and original manuscripts in the world.

I was glad to return recently for an in-depth study of the Hearn collection, and have reflected during that time on its strengths and its history as a collection. It is  important to realize the dedication of family and scholars responsible for some of the Barrett collection’s core Hearn materials. Hearn’s eldest son, Kazuo Hearn Koizumi, writes about his attempt to save his father’s papers in his essay “On War’s Futility,” published in the collection Re-Echo in 1957:

During World War II I was afraid that Father’s treasured manuscripts would be burned in an incendiary bomb attack. I divided his mementos into three packages, two of which I left with friends. I kept one packet. One package my friend stored in a warehouse which was burned; the other package was stolen.

Once the war was over he dug out his package and while airing out the papers “in the sunbeams, under the bright, blue, peaceful, autumn sky in which there were no more air raids, the memories of the dear old days of my childhood returned to heart.” It was his hope that the papers could be published in some form;  his book and the works of numerous others greatly benefited from this labor of love. Most of the papers and notebooks from the bundle are now easily accessed in the Barrett Reading Room in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. The original manuscripts of Re-Echo are perfectly preserved there along with all the artwork that Hearn’s son painstakingly took out as clippings from the notebooks for the publication.

Hearn’s early notebook draft material for “Re-Echo.” (MSS 6101)


Draft illustration for “Re-Echo.”


Page proof for “Re-Echo.”

Another contributor to whom much is owed is P.D. Perkins, who compiled and published a comprehensive bibliography of Hearn in 1934 during the commemorations of the thirtieth anniversary of Hearn’s passing. Perkins also saved some of Hearn’s rarest–and most politically forceful–work from destruction. In a letter to Barrett, he describes how, at his own personal risk, he traveled to Japan and “spent two weeks in September 1941 three months before the start of World War II going over the files of the [Japan Chronicle] newspaper for 1894-95,” when Hearn wrote for hte paper.  If not for his actions all would have been lost: “the file of the Chronicle from which I obtained these articles was destroyed during the bombing of Kobe during the war. To the best of my knowledge there is now no file of the Chronicle in existence.” Perkins was unable to publish these pieces and they remain in the Hearn collection at Virginia as a a set of typescripts.

In these typescripts, Hearn uses his unusual position to critique foreign views of both Japanese and Western culture. Writing in 1895 to Atlantic Monthly editor Horace Scudder, Hearn states, “The difference between myself and other writers on Japan is simply that I have become practically a Japanese – in all but knowledge of language; while other writers remain foreigners, looking from outside at riddles which cannot be read except from the inside.” From this vantage point, Hearn condemned what he thought to be predominating social and racial biases among foreign residents in Japan. In a notable unpublished Chronicle article from August 1895, Hearn advocates for the rights of religious minorities:

The majority have no more right to say that the minority shall be voiceless than the minority have the right to compel the majority to accept their view. It is indeed a proof of how very little the civilization of the nineteenth century has advanced in certain respects beyond that of the Middle Age.

In an editorial of October 1885, he writes on racism that “Race hatred itself [is] based on a sort of perverted emotionalism….Certainly it is clear that it is the growth of intellectuality that we must look for [in] the elimination of race hatreds and the spread of a sane cosmopolitanism.”

Hearn believed that his opinions did not sit well with some expat readers in Japan. After leaving Kobe for Tokyo he would write in a letter, “I have long been a subject of persecution in Japan . . . The matter appears to have been managed by a humble clique of English officials, with the aid of the religious bodies.” With this in mind, we can only speculate why these particular articles were not originally chosen for publications. Some of them might have been viewed as too controversial for their anti-western sentiments. In any case a great debt is owed to P.D. Perkins for saving them and then Mr. Barrett for adding them to his collection.

A key strength of the Hearn collection is in its breadth, as may be seen in the library’s own description of the collection: “three hundred letters, some of them to Ernest Fenollosa and to Japanese friends, twenty-five groups of manuscripts, including those of Kwaidan and the description of feudal customs, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, over thirty notebooks, and innumerable periodical appearances and translations.” The essayist Guy Davenport, writing for a U.Va. exhibition on Hearn, noted the voluminous presence of “variant bindings, later editions, periodical printings, translations, [and] inscribed association copies.” It holds a true wealth of resources for a visiting Hearn scholar.


Lafcadio Hearn was virtually always photographed in profile, with his right side visible. This was due to a disfiguring scar caused by an accident in his youth. The injury was not attended to quickly enough, causing him to lose the sight of the left eye: his cornea was completely transformed into a white scar. His right, uninjured eye was so myopic that, even with lenses, he could scarcely see clearly beyond six inches from his nose. This 1898 image shows Hearn facing the camera much more directly than other photographs. (MSS 6101)




The Book in Tibet

U.Va. has long been a world leader in advancing our understanding of the Western book through bibliographical scholarship. Happily, U.Va.’s considerable bibliographical expertise is now being applied more broadly, as scholars take an increasing interest in adapting the techniques of descriptive and analytical bibliography to the Islamic and Asian book.

A page from an 18th-century manuscript copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The text is written in alternating gold and silver ink. The blue-black lacquered paper was created by applying a lacquer made of yak-skin glue, animal brains, and soot, which was then burnished to create an appropriate writing surface.   (MSS 14259)

A page from an 18th-century manuscript copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The text is written in alternating gold and silver ink. The blue-black lacquered paper was created by applying a lacquer made of yak-skin glue, animal brains, and soot, which was then burnished to create an appropriate writing surface. (MSS 14259)

That interest is particularly intense right now than in the field of Tibetan studies. On November 6-8, U.Va. hosted an international Symposium on the Tibetan Book, at which many of the world’s leading scholars explored the benefits of applying bibliographical methods to the study of Tibetan books and manuscripts. Organized by doctoral students in U.Va.’s Department of Religious Studies, with financial support from the Jefferson Trust and the Buckner W. Clay Endowment, the symposium also attracted speakers and participants from several other academic departments, Rare Book School, and the U.Va. Library.

Symposium papers ranged from an analysis of scripts in the 9th– and 10th-century manuscripts found at Dunhuang to the archiving of Tibetan websites. Despite the considerable hurdles scholars face in accessing Tibetan books and manuscripts, there was a palpable feeling of excitement among symposium attendees, as the time now seems right for making major advances in the field.

A page from a xylographic printing of The Wish-Fulfilling King of Power, a work by the Fifth Dalai Lama published at the government printing house in Lhasa in the late 7th century.

A page from a xylographic printing of The Wish-Fulfilling King of Power, a work by the Fifth Dalai Lama published at the government printing house in Lhasa in the late 17th century.

Of particular value was a workshop, led by Jim Canary, conservator at Indiana University’s Lilly Library, in which participants made Tibetan paper literally from scratch: boiling the raw ingredients (the inner bark of a woody plant ubiquitous in Tibet), pounding the fibers into mush, constructing a simple paper mold, forming the sheets, and then drying them; following which participants printed in the Tibetan manner: inking woodblocks, applying paper, and transferring the image by rubbing.

In conjunction with the Symposium on the Tibetan Book, the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library is pleased to host an exhibition, “The Book in Tibet,” featuring Tibetan books and manuscripts from the U.Va. Library’s extensive holdings. Curated by Ben Nourse, with assistance from Natasha Mikles and Christie Kilby, “The Book in Tibet” surveys four centuries of Tibetan book production through examples of Tibetan manuscripts, woodblock-printed books, and modern imprints. “The Book in Tibet” will remain on view in our first floor exhibition space through December 2014.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

grad_student_borges_2A few days before the semester begins, our reading room generally gets pretty quiet, since summer visitors have headed home and our own faculty are busily preparing for the semester. So I was delighted to find this trio poring over materials together at the front table this afternoon, looking extremely excited and even a bit giddy. Some quick investigating revealed that they are (left to right) Tommy Antorino, Rebekah Coble, and Maggie Czerwien. They are brand new Ph.D. students in the Spanish Department. They met at their department orientation on Monday and learned about Special Collections at a Graduate Student Resources panel yesterday.  Finding themselves with a bit of free time on their hands this afternoon, they headed down Under Grounds, and after learning the ropes from our reading room staff, found themselves in front of a Jorge Luis Borges manuscript. Hence, the giddiness.

I didn’t want to interrupt them for too long, so I asked if I could take their picture, and if they would share with me an adjective about their experience:



“Ecstatic to learn of the resources here at U.Va.”

Tommy, Rebekah, and Maggie, welcome to U.Va.!! We are so excited to have you and all your fellow new graduate students here on grounds. Here’s to a fantastic new academic year.

Editorial Antics: A peek into the newly acquired manuscript magazine, The Gleaner

This week, we are pleased to feature a guest post by graduate curatorial assistant Elizabeth Ott, who has just finished preparing a small exhibition on a recently acquired magazine. The exhibition, The Gleaner: Documenting the Great War, opens Friday, August 8 and will remain on view through October.

While working on this serious exhibition,  Elizabeth became increasingly distracted by the hilarious antics of the editorial team leading the magazine. In this blog post, she provides an overview of the magazine’s unusual editorial structure before sharing with you some of the tastiest tidbits.

In my work at Special Collections, I often come across items that are very easy to interpret when you hold them in your hands but become rather more complicated to describe to another person. Such an item is the recently acquired sixteen-issue run of The Gleaner (1910-1918). On its title page it declares itself an “amateur manuscript magazine,” an accurate yet vague description of an object that combines the methodology of a commonplace book or a picture album with the reflective qualities of a diary, the exchange of an epistolary correspondence, and the aspirations of literary quarterly. Its pages–a mix of handwritten and typed contributions alongside original works of art in pen, watercolor, charcoal, and pastels–tell the story of a fascinating community of men and women from across the United Kingdom in the years leading up to and during the Great War.

The title page for this issue from May/June 1918 features colorful calligraphy, contributed in lieu of an artistic submission. Members who failed to contribute at all to an issue were fined. (Not yet cataloged. Library Associates Endowment Fund.)

The title page for this issue from May/June 1918 features colorful calligraphy, contributed in lieu of an artistic submission. Members who failed to contribute at all to an issue were fined. (Not yet cataloged. Library Associates Endowment Fund.)

Each issue of The Gleaner is physically unique: only one copy was produced. Members  submitted essays, stories, poems, drawings, etc. to editor Winifred T. Godfrey of Kew Gardens, Surrey. Godfrey collected and bound the entries inside an original cover (usually artwork submitted by a member), and added a table of contents, editorial preface, postal list, and section of criticism. Other features included a section where members voted for favorite submissions or left suggestions for future issues. Godfrey then mailed the completed magazine to the first member on the postal list. Each member was to keep the magazine for up to two days, then send it on to the next person on the list. When it had made its rounds, it was returned to Godfrey, with the critical remarks of each member to be added to the next issue.

Caption 1: Cover designs for The Gleaner were contributed by members. These four early issues date from 1910-13. (Not yet cataloged, Library Associates Endowment Fund.)

Cover designs for The Gleaner  were contributed by members. These four early issues date from 1910-13.

It is not entirely clear how the magazine began, or how its members came together. They lived and worked in disparate parts of the country and came from a variety of political and social backgrounds: some were old and some young, some women and some men, married and unmarried alike. Some members appear to have known each other outside its pages, while others were clearly strangers—one member, Maisie Swift, notes her shock upon learning that long-time member Mr. Morrison was quite young. “Please don’t take offense,” she writes, before admitting that in her head she calls him “Old Sam.” In early issues members rarely used their first names, but in later issues frequently did, and sometimes submitted pictures of themselves to be included in the magazine’s pages.

“I sketch for that” by J.M. Minty. Art contributions to The Gleaner are enclosed as originals, as in this ink and watercolor cartoon.

“I sketch for that” by J.M. Minty. Art contributions to The Gleaner are enclosed as originals, as in this ink and watercolor cartoon.

This humorous illustrated essay, poking fun at advertising rhetoric, is from the September/October 1918 issue, but unfortunately lacks an author attribution. The essay combines hand-written commentary, watercolor sketches, and clippings from newspapers.

This humorous illustrated essay, poking fun at advertising rhetoric, is from the September/October 1918 issue, but unfortunately lacks an author attribution. The essay combines hand-written commentary, watercolor sketches, and clippings from newspapers.

Contributors paid a nominal fee for membership (the price of postage) and could be fined for failing to submit contributions on time. But the most onerous tasks involved in producing this a labor-intensive product (at times, issues of The Gleaner appear to have been produced once every two months) fell largely on the shoulders of editor Winifred Godfrey. In her editorial prefaces, she frequently chides members for late submissions, poor-quality artwork, or unintentional postal mishaps. They, in turn, fill the suggestions page with complaints about tardy receipts of the magazine or not having enough time to read it each month.

The editor here critiques the magazine's submissions, stating,

The editor here critiques the magazine’s submissions, stating, “I am afraid this number is not particularly good, in either the literary or the artistic portion, but if you will not contribute properly you cannot expect the mag. to be very good.” (Not yet cataloged, Library Associates Endowment Fund).

Photograph of Winifred T. Godfrey with a short essay describing her experiences having her picture taken. Godfrey’s essay is at once vain and deprecating: “When I first saw the photograph I was quite pleased with it, but when you look into it, it isn’t quite as good as you expect.”

Photograph of Winifred T. Godfrey with a short essay describing her experiences having her picture taken. Godfrey’s essay is at once vain and deprecating: “When I first saw the photograph I was quite pleased with it, but when you look into it, it isn’t quite as good as you expect.”

It may have been for this reason that Godfrey invited one of the members, Leander Demetrius Potous, to join her as Sub-Editor. Potous’s original task seems to have been typing up the criticism and prefatory material. Potous, who styled himself a “Humoresque,” took things a step farther, using his new-found position as typist to insert sarcastic and caustic commentary into the magazine, particularly in the criticism section. Potous’s commentary was often scathing. He contradicted positive reviews by cheerful members and mocked those with literary aspirations. He inserted articles with titles like “How to Write a Poem for The Gleaner” that excoriated members–by name–for derivative entries.


This pen sketch, decorating a photograph of the infamous Sub-Editor, is signed Selwyn B. Potous—perhaps a relative of Leander.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Potous’s editorial influence was not well-appreciated, and members began to resign at an alarming rate, citing the toxic tone in the criticism section, spurred on by Potous, as their primary reason for departure. In the Nov/Dec 1917 issue, early in Potous’s tenure as Sub-Editor, Godfrey writes in her preface:

Yet another resignation: F.A. Griffin no longer finds the ‘Gleaner’ as interesting as it used to be. She thinks the influence of the Sub-Ed. completely spoils it, and that he stirs up strife among the members, and causes continual arguing and unpleasantness in the criticism. Poor S.E.! He seems to be blamed for a lot!

Godfrey’s sympathy for Potous waned, however, when his antics interfered with her editorial duties. In the Jan/Feb 1918 issue, Godfrey inserted a long note near the back of the book, noting with alarm that:

I don’t know what is the matter with you all this time! I have just returned today from spending a holiday at Eastbourne, and find this magazine awaiting me, while I see that six members have not had it at all yet. Why Mr. Johnston, after apparently keeping it five or six days instead of two, returned it to me instead of sending it on to Mr. Holt, I do not know. It has already had one lost journey by being sent on by Mr. Greenhorn to Mr. Potous instead of to Mr. Lewin, but this was really Mr. Phillips’ fault for putting Mr. Potous address on back when sending on.

The blame, she insists, lies with Mr. Potous:

I believe a lot of this trouble, however, may be caused by the Sub Editor’s having tampered with the Postal List, and sending it to one of the members out of her turn. And he has even had the audacity to cross my name off the end of the list, and put his own I notice! Please, no more altering or tampering with my Postal List, Mr. Sub Editor! It only makes the magazine look untidy, and is apt to muddle members who have not enough time to study things carefully or to read your detailed remarks.

Potous’s crime in altering her postal list is further compounded by the rather incendiary departure of another longtime member. Godfrey writes:

The following is an exact copy of a postcard I have just received from D.T. Wilcock—it will be remembered that the Sub Editor called him a “lunatic” in his last criticisms; I don’t know if he thought I was guilty of this and wished to be revenged, but here it is:–


‘Book sent away to Mr. Morrison from Wilcock Heptonstall today Sunday Sept 23rd 1917. To be fair with you it requires a lunatic to deal with you at present I saw that from your photo. You may be dealt with less mercifully some day. If the magazine was a thing that mattered much you would have known about it from your magazine. No wonder you are on the shelf. I am excused from responsibility of law court actions from the Gleaner in future.’


I have no idea what this all means—I am really rather inclined to think the Sub Ed. may be right for once, in his estimation of Mr. Wilcock. Anyway, I think you will all agree that I am justified in dismissing Wilcock from our midst henceforth; I cannot have postcards of this description being sent to our house; my father was very annoyed about it.”

Potous, for his part, appended his own defense, totalling four pages of type densely packed, biting back with characteristic zeal:

I do not remember calling our late member a ‘lunatic’ I am certain I did nothing of the sort. I may have asked him at what lunatic asylum he was residing, but this is quite another thing—he might have been there as a doctor or keeper or something of that sort. On the other hand, he might have been there as an inmate—one never knows.

Godfrey inserts another sheet, handwritten, at the close of this issue with a distressed call for members to send her a confidential postcard voting on whether or not Potous should be removed from his office, and, indeed, by the next issue Potous is conspicuously absent. Some departed members did return, but the criticism section remained contentious. One member groused that “in spite of our late Sub-editor’s retirement, scathing, unnecessary critiques still appear rife among the members.”

A detail from the page featuring a portrait of the Sub-Editor.

A detail from the page featuring a portrait of the Sub-Editor.

Though in-fighting often centered around the perceived literary or artistic merits of contributions, just as often members expressed divergent opinions about politics and current events, including the events of World War I, which was contemporary with the later years of the magazine’s run. Editorial antics aside, The Gleaner represents an important archive of a pivotal moment in Western history. Those interested in exploring this record of World War 1 are invited to view the exhibition The Gleaner: Documenting the Great War,  in the First Floor Gallery at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

Patron’s Choice: A Slave Negotiates her own Sale, 1852

This week we are pleased to feature a guest post from Harrison Fellow Lauren LaFauci.

Dr. LaFauci spent several weeks in Special Collections this spring as an Elwood Fellow at the Harrison Institute for American History, Literature, and Culture. She was researching for her current book project, entitled Peculiar Natures: Slavery, Environment, and Nationalism in the Southern States, 1789-1865. She teaches at the University of Tulsa.

A tireless researcher who dug deep into our collections, LaFauci generously shared her most interesting finds with the Reading Room staff. She agreed to write for Notes from Under Grounds about one item in particular: a letter from a slave-owner describing how he came to sell his his slave Fanny. As LaFauci points out, we can only get so far in recovering the circumstances of this sale since this letter is our only source.


Writing from Halifax Court House, Virginia to his brother Alex in Williamsburg on October 4, 1852, Ben Garrett closed his letter with the following important news:

You must tell Ma : that I have sold Fanny to Mr Poindexter who Keeps a Hotel in the village – opposite to Easley’s store – I did not intend or wish to sell her, but she behaved so badly I was compelled to do so – I sold her for the sum of $850.00 payable on the 1st day of May next –

Such a note—while always jarring to 21st-century readers, even to those of us reading about and studying slavery—communicates nothing unusual to its recipient. Citing what he perceived as Fanny’s bad behavior, Ben told Alex that he “was compelled to [sell her],” which was a common punishment. However, the rest of the letter communicates something highly unusual, at least for those stories preserved in the archive:

She told me, she had rather be sold than to go back to Williamsburg You know I disposed of my home & lot at the Co: House & determined to remove to my plantation sometime in November next. She was opposed to living in the Country – not wishing to leave the Village I told her to go to the plantation, whereupon she ran off from me & was gone a week. – When she came home, she said, she wanted to be sold & that “arrangements” were made the night before she returned home for her to get off to a free State or out of the State, but that she preferred being sold in the Village – I have had a deal of trouble with her – more than all the rest together for it was almost impossible to control her. She exhibited no signs of penitence & asked me to sell her. Poindexter offered me a large price & I determined to let her go – I understand that he & his wife are pleased with her & if she will behave herself, they will treat her well – Of course I will account for her value – but I will add, she is one of the most difficult negroes to control I ever saw –

Say to Ma : I am sorry I had to sell her, but that she asked & was anxious to be sold – I think she was Kept by some white persons about the Village, which was the cause of her conduct. I saw her to-day & she seemed to be satisfied with her new home from her appearance —  I know that she was treated well at our house & there was no excuse for her behaviour & then to have the impudence to run away from me & stay out a week. If it was not that she was aunt Lucy’s child (who has been so faithful) I should have no pity for her – [. . .]

The opening page of the letter. (MSS 9974-a: Papers of the Garrett Family. Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg)

The opening page of the letter. (MSS 9974-a: Papers of the Garrett Family. Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg)

This story presents a number of thorny questions. If we take Ben’s communication of the events at face value—a large “if,” and more on that below—then Fanny took distinct and savvy actions to achieve her desired outcome. First, she resisted Ben’s orders to “go to the plantation” in the country by running away for one week; at that time, she may have been making the “arrangements” Ben alludes to. Such truancy would have signaled to Ben that she was willing to take drastic actions in order to get her way, while simultaneously giving her time and space to effect her own escape or sale. Second, she appears to have negotiated this sale; Ben notes that Fanny “asked & was anxious to be sold” and that she “was opposed to living in the Country” and would “rather be sold than to go back to Williamsburg.”

These lines from the third page of the letter reveal the extent of Fanny's influence upon her owner. (Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

These lines from the third page of the letter reveal the extent of Fanny’s influence upon her owner. (Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

If we assume Ben’s version of events, Fanny told him that she preferred to be sold “in the Village” rather than relocating to his rural plantation. Such a preference raises an intriguing parallel to the narrative of Harriet Jacobs, who similarly desired to stay within the town of Edenton, North Carolina, where she gained some protection from the advances of her lecherous owner, James Norcom: “It was lucky for me that I did not live on a distant plantation,” she wrote, “but in a town not so large that the inhabitants were ignorant of each other’s affairs. Bad as are the laws and customs in a slaveholding community, [Norcom], as a professional man, deemed it prudent to keep up some outward show of decency” (47).**  In another parallel with Jacobs, Fanny appears to have been on intimate terms with “some white persons about the Village”: readers of Jacobs will recall that she forms a relationship with Samuel Tredwell Sawyer, having two children with him, in order to protect herself from the sexual advances of Norcom. Both Fanny and Jacobs seem to engage in alternative relationships to gain increased power within a system designed to deny them such agency.

A page from Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, demonstrating compelling parallels with Fanny's much more heavily mediated story. (PS 1293 .I54 1861. Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

A page from Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, demonstrating compelling parallels with Fanny’s much more heavily mediated story. (PS 1293 .I54 1861. Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

And now to that big “if” – to what extent can we take Ben’s account of this story as “the truth”? If Fanny was indeed seeking shelter from sexual advances, can we trust that she really “asked & was anxious to be sold”? Or was Ben trying to cover for himself, to provide a reason for the sale of an enslaved woman who was clearly important to the family?

These questions, among many others, make up the central problem for historians of slavery: most of the stories about enslaved people in the archive are mediated through the voices of the people who legally owned them. We attempt to ascertain the “true” course of events, but we must frequently do so through the words of those with the power to construct such stories however they wish, and for audiences with motivations similar to their own. In a time when enslaved people were prohibited by law from learning to read and write, any evidence of literacy would have been hidden from those with the power to preserve such words, leaving us with mere traces and glimpses. We work through several layers of meaning, only to emerge with more questions than we had at the start. How do you interpret Fanny’s story?

Author’s note: I have reproduced the spelling, formatting, and punctuation as they appear in the original letter. Any errors in the transcription are my own.

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.

Observations on the Seventeen-Year Cicada: A Citizen Scientist Reports from 1824

For the last two weeks, I have been, well, geeking out as cicadas have begun appearing in my heavily wooded neighborhood in Charlottesville. I’ve seen two waves of the little beasties emerge from beneath the shrubs outside my cottage, and each time, have immediately documented my sightings online. Social-networking and online-news sources this spring alerted me to two websites that are calling on “Citizen Scientists” to document the emergence, one hosted by Radio Lab and the other by National Geographic.

One of the first cicadas to emerge in my neighborhood in Charlottesville, May 15, 2013.

One of the first cicadas to emerge in my neighborhood in Charlottesville, May 15, 2013. It rests on the branch of an Abelia shrub, under which may be seen numerous circular holes from which this and other cicadas emerged. (Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

Why the big deal? Brood II cicadas (Magicicada septendecim) spend seventeen years living underground before emerging to sing loudly, lay eggs, and then die within about a month. Because of this unusually lengthy life cycle, Brood II cicadas are relatively mysterious to scientists, and a lot of basic questions about their activities remain unanswered. So scientists have been taking advantage of crowdsourcing opportunities to gather information; emergences are spotty (some people will see no cicadas in their yards) and range across hundreds of miles. Projects like the ones I’m participating in will perhaps provide enough data to keep the lab rats busy for, oh, maybe another seventeen years.

I wondered how earlier Virginians experienced cicada emergences, and was thrilled to discover that Special Collections holds a remarkable 200-year-old personal account of a fellow magicicada enthusiast, who wrote his own history of “locusts,” as they were commonly termed in that period. “J. S.” (who felt uncomfortable giving his/her full name to “such a rough draft”) tracked what are now known as Brood II and Brood X, which also emerges every 17 years, and will emerge next in 2021. J. S. explains how careful observation led him to determine that the cicadas feed off the roots of trees while underground (correct!). He also describes with great detail the workings of the female’s “perforator” (now called the “ovipositor”), the mechanism with which she lays her eggs.

J. S.’s  4-page long description of emergences in 1766, 1783, 1800, and 1809 is reproduced here in full, each page first in transcription (with paragraph breaks added and some spelling and punctuation modified for ease of reading), followed by an image of the page. Enjoy!

A short history of the locusts of North America

Several years past some conversation took place between an intimate acquaintance and my self, respecting the locusts. For his information I will throw my Ideas on paper. In the spring of 1766 they made their appearance in Frederick County Virginia and in 1783 the appeared again. Previous to their coming up at this time, I observed the Hoggs were very busy rooting under the Apple trees in the orchard. In a few days the locusts were seen in abundance crawling from the avenues of their subterenious dwellings. A short time after they appeared they were observed to be busily employed in geting released from a covering they had no use for in their present abode. As they appeared to come onely a small distance from the apple trees or the trees of the forrest, I was at a loss for a reason why it was so, and was induced to think that when the eggs they deposited in the small branches of of the trees, were hatched, that the young ones droped down and made their way into the earth, that they remained there a certain number of years. I had heared of several spaces of time mentioned, but there appeared no standard to calculation as to the length of time they remained in the earth, or the depth they decended. All appeared uncertain.

So it passed on untill they came in 1800. The first discovery I then made of their coming was the earth rooted up by the hoggs as heretofore. At this time finding it to be 17 years since their last appearance, it claimed my further attention, and I undertook a more minute investigation of the case. I had an orchard near the house where the trees were planted too close together and some of them had been cut down two or three years before. In conversation with a friend of mine on the subject of the locusts, which appeared in great abundance, we walked into the orchard, and made a prety full examination of their coming out of the earth, and discovered that there was no holes in the ground near the stumps of the trees that had been removed some years previous to that time. This led me to investigate the case further in respect to the means of sustenance & I was now led to believe that they drew their support from the live roots of the trees So I left it until they came the next time.
I was now living In the State of Ohio in the year 1809. In the spring of this year I

First page of A Short History of the Locusts of North America (MSS 9727). (Digitized by Molly Schwartzburg)

First page of A Short History of the Locusts of North America (MSS 9727). (Digitized by Molly Schwartzburg)

I was fencing a garden. I observed in diging the post holes at one corner of the garden, we found many locusts near the Surface, but in the other part we did not discover any. Here the former observation took place. There was the green roots of a shade tree that we had removed, and the locusts were not found further than the roots had spread. This was several years before the time that I expected they would again shew themselves, according to my former calculations, yet I judged we should have another locust year before the time in course. I now made enquiry of some of the former setler that had lived near me, when the locusts had made their appearance last, but none of them appared clear as to the time. And recuring back to the time that I discovered that they did not come up round the dead appletree Stumps, it struck me that it was similar to our not finding any locusts in the holes we dug for the post holes of our garden fence.

This spring the locust came in great abundance. A further examination took place. I took a walk in order to satisfy my curiosity, and after advancing some distance and passing several stumps of trees that had been cut not more than two or three years, and could not find one hole where the locusts had come up, and proceeding on a little further, I discovered one hole, and then another, and casting my eye a little further on, I observed several holes the locusts had made nearly in a straight line. In order to gratify my curiosity a little more, I got a spade and dug till I found the root of an elm tree that was now exactly under the row of holes, the locusts had made, and searching further about the roots of the elm, I discovered there was small open spaces round the roots, where I thought it was at least probable, the locusts had lain and sucked the sap out of the roots. Here they could not have decended more than four or five feet , as the leavel of the creek was not more than that distance.

The knowledge I thought I had gained of their history led me to pry minutely into the manner of their increas. I found that they hatched in a short time after the eggs were deposited in the small branches of the trees, and that they were

Page two.

Page two.

to be found in little clusters on the small lims. In a short time they shed a little coat or shell something similar to that they shed soon after they came out of their [subterenious caverns?.] They shed several of these coverings when they are small of a colour between white and brown. To take hold of them is difficult. They will slip off more like what is calld a flee than any other insect that I know of. They continue on the tender branches of the tree, untill they are something more than half an inch long, and have the resemblance of the locust.

The perforator (as I do not know any name more proper to call it) appears to be perfectly formed at this time for driling the holes in the small branches of the trees where She deposits their eggs. This instrument is about half an inch long and about the thickness of a smallish needle. It is hollow and a seam along the lower part, a little resembling a steel pen, the outer end is shaped a little like the bowl of a spoon with the concave side down, the curved part is brought to a sharp point and both edges are set with sharp teeth so fine that the naked eye can hardly discern them, but when magnifyed appear something like [sickle?] teeth. The motion made with this almost curious instrument in driling the holes is nearly a semicircle and with the little teeth cuting both ways they soon make the hole as deep as the want it.

The egg now appears opening and swelling the tube untill it gets in the concave part, then the egg is deposited and another hole is commenced. So they go on untill they have a douzen or more of eggs in regular order. One end of the first one is [elevated?] about forty degrees, and the next egg is laid part on the first so that they lay in a regular streight line. So beautifully are they aranged that the nicest [illegible?] cant exceed it, and the perforator cant be exceeded by human art. The locust when prepared to decend into the earth as above described, is near three fourths of an inch long, is covered along its back from the hindermost part of the wings to the front of the head, with a hard horny substance perhaps as hard as a cows horn,

Page 3.

Page 3.

and on the foremost part it appears to be formed for diging or penetrating into the earth, (all the work of the great architect) . I think it is likely they ware this armour untill they are nearly ready to leave their house of clay, and about to ascend into the pure and sublime regions of the air. Here their existence is not long in duration. Soon after they arise they shed a coat or covering. It appears to burst on the back and they crawl out, and soon begin their ravages on the tender branches of the fruit and other trees, by piercing them with their small bits and sucking the sap, which appears to be their onely sustenance. I have seen them when about to leave the branch where they have been feeding on, the flow of sap hath been so strong that after the locust leaves the place where he has been feeding the tender juice will run and stand on the branch quite transparent.

There is one more remark that I want to make respecting the locusts. I have found the young locusts more numerous on the branches of the locust trees than any other tree. Whether the locusts took their name from this tree, or the tree from the locusts, I must leave.

It is left now to inform that what is wrote is the result of my own observation which begun with the year 1766—1783—1800—1817 were locust years in Frederick and Loudon, Counties, in Virginia. I once related this circumstance to a friend of mine in whom I could place the greatest confidence and he then informed me, that in the year 1749 his Father removed with his famely from Pensylvania to Loudon County Virginia, and it was a locust year. In the year 1817 the locusts onely reached to the crossings in the Aleghany mountain and in 1809 when we had them in Jefferson Ohio they did not reach Pittsburgh until several years after that time, so it is I believe they have 17 years as a stated period of appearance. What changes may take place hereafter we do not know. I onely state what has been the result of my my enquiry

Thy friend
J. S

My name in full is too much to put to such a rough draft as this 3rd mo 16th 1824

Page 4.

Page 4.

This Just In: A Happy Reunion!

Here at U.Va. Thomas Jefferson looms large both on, and under, Grounds.  It is only fitting that the Small Special Collections Library holds one of the world’s best collections of Jefferson manuscripts.  Some form part of the U.Va. Archives, for Jefferson founded the university and served as its first Rector from 1816 until his death in 1826.  Others have been placed in our care by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello.  Still more have been acquired over the years through the generosity of many donors, who have either entrusted their Jefferson manuscripts to us or given funds for new acquisitions.

Jefferson is estimated to have written some 19,000 letters during his lifetime.  A great many survive, and a significant number of Jefferson letters and documents remain in private hands.  Given our finite resources, Special Collections can by no means acquire every Jefferson manuscript that comes on the market.  Instead we patiently seek items of high research value, especially the previously unknown and unpublished.  Our latest Jefferson acquisition arrived just last week, and it fits the bill perfectly: an early and highly significant manuscript, previously unknown and unpublished, which is the mate of a manuscript already at U.Va.

Our newly acquired Thomas Jefferson manuscript: the bottom half of a leaf containing his draft revision (ca. November 1769) of the rules under which the Virginia House of Burgesses conducted its business. (Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

But the story begins in 1988, when Special Collections learned of an unrecorded Jefferson manuscript being offered in an upstate New York auction.  The document, for which we were high bidder, was identified by editors at the Papers of Thomas Jefferson as the top half of a leaf, written on both sides, containing Jefferson’s draft revision of the rules by which Virginia’s House of Burgesses conducted its business.  Jefferson began his political career in 1769 when, at the age of 26, he took a seat in the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg.  In November of that year he was appointed to a committee chaired by Edmund Pendleton, who assigned Jefferson the task of drafting new rules for the House.  Jefferson’s draft was refined in committee before being approved by the House of Burgesses on December 8, 1769.  These rules guided its deliberations in the crucial years leading up to the American Revolution.

In 1997 U.Va.’s incomplete manuscript was published in volume 27 of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, where it was described as Jefferson’s “earliest surviving documentary contribution as a public official to promoting the orderly conduct of legislative business, a subject of enduring interest that culminated during his vice-presidency with the publication in 1801 of his Manual of Parliamentary Practice, which still helps to guide parliamentary procedure in the United States Congress today.”  In some respects it also prefigures Jefferson’s later committee assignment, in June of 1776, to draft another key document: the Declaration of Independence.

Proof that the document’s top and bottom halves were once joined: from left to right, note how the dot of the i and ascenders of the letters h, h and b align perfectly across the divide. (Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

Last month, on the opening night of the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, I was called over to a dealer’s booth, where a modest scrap of paper was placed in my hands.  It was none other than the missing bottom half of Jefferson’s 1769 draft!  Negotiations were quickly concluded, and last week the two halves were happily, and permanently, reunited.  Once the newly acquired manuscript is fully studied and published, we will know far more about this key episode in Jefferson’s nascent political career and the development of his political thinking.

Reunited at last! The top half is cataloged as MSS 10803; the newly acquired bottom half is presently being accessioned. (Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

Coincidentally, an exhibition of some of our best Jefferson manuscripts is on view under Grounds through June 8.  Curated in cooperation with Monticello staff, “Thomas Jefferson Revealed” briefly surveys Jefferson’s pre-presidential years and his life at Monticello.  Highlights include a ledger recording Jefferson’s Williamsburg book purchases from 1764-1766; his annotated copy of the London, 1787 edition of Notes on the State of Virginia; a lock of Jefferson’s hair taken on his deathbed, and a letter describing his last hours; and the manuscript autobiography of Isaac Jefferson, a Monticello slave.