Special Collections has celebrated Women’s History Month 2018 with numerous exhibits in Newman Library and the Holtzman Alumni Center. Part of our focus has been on some of the first women who attended or worked at Virginia Tech. I’ve written before about some of VT’s female trailblazers, but I decided to concentrate on the first international woman to graduate, Carmen Venegas (1912/1914? – 1991). She has the additional distinction of being the first known Latina/Hispanic woman to study at Virginia Tech and, according to the July 15, 1945, profile about her in the Los Angeles Times, she is the first Latin American woman to earn an electrical engineering degree in the United States.
Venegas earned one of two scholarships awarded by the government of her home nation Costa Rica, making it possible for her to attend the university. Before graduating in 1938 with a B.S. in electrical engineering, she was a member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and was the only woman in the organization of nearly 40 students at that time.
A founding member of the Short Wave Club, Venegas trained students in amateur radio operations. She taught classes in radio operation and acted as Hostess for the Club in 1937. The Short Wave Club is a predecessor to the student-run group, the Virginia Tech Amateur Radio Association, exemplifying how her and other students’ contributions to the university have made an impact that can still be felt today.
In addition to her school activities, Venegas is remembered as a pilot, even keeping her own airplane in Lynchburg. In 1937, the National Intercollegiate Flying Club invited her to join a convoy from Washington, D.C., to view air races in Miami, Florida. Out of 100 pilots, Venegas was the only Virginia-based woman in the bunch!
Following her time at VPI, Venegas went on to a long and varied career as an engineer, performer, and painter. She married Meade A. Livesay and moved to Los Angeles, where she studied music and art at UCLA. Venegas went on to perform dancing and singing under the name Carmen Lesay.
(This post was updated Nov. 9, 2018, with corrections and additional information about Carmen Venegas after her time at Virginia Tech. Thank you to Ivannia Diaz for her corrections and sharing resources with us!)
The university has celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day for awhile now. One of our graduate students Jamelle Simmons has been researching and updating the Black History Timeline for the University Archives. In his research, Simmons found several items about the university’s commemorations of Rev. Dr. King and his legacy, which have been hosted and sponsored over the years by the Virginia Tech Union, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Black Caucus, Black Organizations Council, Black Cultural Center, the Office of Inclusion and Diversity, and others. Items include student event calendars, newspaper articles, and flyers. This year, the Cultural and Community Centers established the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oration Competition as an annual event.
Rev. Dr. King has been remembered at Virginia Tech even before the establishment of the holiday, ever since his assassination on April 4, 1968. On the following day, students held a vigil at Burruss Hall surrounding the U.S. and Virginia flags. Initially the flags were raised to full mast, so mourners lowered both to half mast and protected the flags while talking to passersby about King’s ideals and nonviolent beliefs. Although they were forced to restore the flags to full mast, in the afternoon President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered flags lowered in King’s honor, which the university complied with. A transcript of The Virginia Tech (precursor to The Collegiate Times) article is available on the Black History Timeline.
Linda Edmonds, one of the first six Black women admitted to Virginia Tech in 1966, wrote notes of her thoughts upon Rev. Dr. King’s death (the first two paragraphs, written on April 4, 1968) and the initial raising of the flag to full mast (the last paragraph, written on April 5, 1968). The notes and transcript follow below:
A Tribute … Thoughts when Dr. King Died
The way I feel today … is lost.
I feel a faint beat of hope, but is there a way? What will be the cost? A man dies, another is born. The circle goes on. Why take away something that we cannot replace? Take my body, hurt it, hurt it, the pain ceases after awhile; though death is sometimes the final release. But don’t tear down my heart, don’t make me hate the sight of my fellow man. Don’t take my dignity and trust in mankind. If you do we are both lost.
I need somebody to talk to, somebody that will not say you have to be strong now, I’m not. You can’t help me can you? – You believe you know how I feel?
This morning when the flag was raised to its highest level–gloom surrounded my being. The march–step–step–step of the uniformed men–the systematic order of it all. You 3, you had your orders to follow, but how did your hearts feel? Did you realize that I could not look up with pride when the flag was blowing so powerfully in the early crisp air. Maybe you did, but you told yourself well it has to be. The U.S. flag was torn at the ends, the tears started climbing and winding their ways through that symbol of the country that I am a native of. Will there soon be nothing left but strips of cloth floating individually about the flag pole? Some bits will no doubt lose strength all together and drift off into the air and never return. No, this will not happen, we will buy a new flag and everything will be O.K.; I can smile and be happy looking at the stars and stripes forever. But I can’t smile and be happy with my fellowman because people just want to exchange hate and past mistakes for something better. The society tears apart – floating about in individual strips, it eventually loses strength and bits of it drift off into the air and never return.
In addition to these items related to the university, Special Collections has other publications by and about Rev. Dr. King. In the Bishop William H. Marmion Papers, Ms 1986-013, there is a pamphlet copy of King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail, published by the American Friends Service Committee in May 1963. For those of you who may not know, Birmingham leaders working with King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) began protesting segregation in the city with organized demonstrations in April 1963. The city obtained an injunction against the protests, which the leaders disobeyed, resulting in King’s arrest. Several local white clergymen publicly criticized the protests, prompting King to respond with the now famous letter. In it he defends his participation as an “outsider,” explains the value and steps of a nonviolent campaign, and questions the clergymen’s insistence on waiting for a resolution to continued injustice.
According to the King Encyclopedia by Stanford University’s King Institute, Rev. Dr. King gave the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) organization, permission to publish the letter in May 1963 as a pamphlet. The group had been working with King since 1956 after the Montgomery bus boycott, but they had been involved with anti-racism activities since the 1920s, only a few years after their founding during World War I. With permission from King, the AFSC distributed 50,000 copies of the Letter from Birmingham Jail in 1963, and that same year nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize, which he was awarded the following year.
Another item in our collections is the book, We Shall Live in Peace: The Teachings of Martin Luther King Jr., edited by Deloris Harrison and illustrated by Ernest Crichlow. The book outlines King’s life and discusses several significant steps in his fight for civil rights, including excerpts from his writings. Born in Bedford, Virginia, Harrison graduated from St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn, and received a master’s from New York University in 1963. She began teaching in New York City in 1961, and was chosen as a Fulbright teacher in 1966. Crichlow (1914-2005) was a Brooklyn artist coming out of the Harlem Renaissance and known for his works concerning social injustice for African Americans. According to his New York Times obituary, he studied commercial art in Manhattan and worked in the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project. In 1957, Crichlow cofounded and served as first chairperson of the Fulton Arts Fair, which showcased the works of both new and established artists in the community. The Petrucci Family Foundation’s Collection of African-American Art entry on Crichlow states that in 1980, President Jimmy Carter honored Crichlow and nine other black artists from the National Conference of Artists at the White House.
A few excerpt pages from We Shall Live in Peace by Harrison and Crichlow appear below, and I encourage anyone interested to come into Special Collections to see this beautiful book.
Of course, there are numerous other items in our collections related to Rev. Dr. King and the greater Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s (and before and after), so I hope that you will come into Special Collections to take a look for yourself. And don’t forget to attend some of the events planned for the annual celebrations for Martin Luther King Jr. Day here at Virginia Tech and in the local community.
Last week, I was listening to the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast’s recent episode on Edward Gorey, and I wondered if Virginia Tech University Libraries had any of his work. Fortune looked brightly on me – not only does the Libraries have numerous texts, but Special Collections actually has three rare books illustrated by Gorey! And since it’s Halloween, I decided to make this week’s post about a modern master of the macabre, author and illustrator Edward Gorey!
My first exposure to the work of Edward Gorey (1925-2000) was from the opening sequence of PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery!, which has been used since 1980, but he may be best known for his book, The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1963), an alphabetical book about the deaths of 26 children. Gorey studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, before joining the U.S. Army during World War II and eventually graduating from Harvard in 1950, where he befriended the poet Frank O’Hara. They, along with other Harvard friends, founded the Poets’ Theatre in Cambridge. In 1953, Gorey began working at the Art Department of Doubleday, illustrating numerous classics, and that same year Brown and Company published his first book The Unstrung Harp. He published his first anthology Amphigorey in 1972, and the next designed a set and costumes for a Nantucket production of Dracula (see more below). In 1979, Gorey moved to Cape Cod and became involved in local productions, even writing his own plays and musicals, and he lived there until his death in 2000.
Let’s take a look at the earliest book we have, Son of the Martini Cookbook by Jane Trahey and Daren Pierce, illustrated by Edward Gorey and published by Clovis Press, 1967. The book includes a handful of food recipes, ordered by how many martinis you’ve had and thus of increasing simplicity. (However, I recommend cooking before you drink, to be safe!) The authors include fictional biographies, but are likely advertising executive and author Jane Trahey (1923-2000), who’s book Life with Mother Superior was adapted into Ida Lupino’s film The Trouble with Angels, starring Rosalind Russell and Hayley Mills, and author and interior designer Daren Pierce (1922-1984), who founded a store dedicated to needlepoint designs, according to the New York Times. Clovis Press was a bookstore in New York, which closed its doors in 2006.
Next is The Rats of Rutland Grange by Edmund Wilson with drawings by Edward Gorey and published by Gotham Book Mart, 1974 (original in Esquire Magazine, December 1961). A long poem of rhyming couplets by Wilson, the story is about rats who steal the family’s food and destroy their things. On Christmas eve to kill the rats, the children of Rutland Grange put out poisoned chocolate, which bodes poorly for dear, old Santa (spoiler: don’t worry, Santa survives to live another Christmas!) The book indicates only 1,000 copies were printed, including 100 signed by the authors and 26 specifically for Gorey and Gotham Book Mart. (Sadly, our copy is not signed.) Edmund Wilson (1895-1972) was a literary critic and author. The Gotham Book Mart was a New York City bookstore, owned by Gorey’s friend Andreas Brown, who heavily advertised Gorey’s work and published several monograph, according to the New York Times.
Finally, we have Dracula: A Toy Theatre, sets and costumes designed by Edward Gorey (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979). This books contains drawings based on Gorey’s designs from the 1979 Broadway production of Dracula, a revival of the play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston and based on Bram Stoker’s novel. The intention is for the book owner to produce the play by cutting out the costumes and sets, using the book as the backdrop for the set. It also lays out a synopsis of the play and cast. According to the Internet Broadway Database, this production of Dracula ran from 1977 to 1980 and earned Gorey the 1978 Tony Award for Best Costume Design and was nominated for Best Scenic Design. Frank Langella portrayed Dracula, earning his own Tony nomination for the 1978 Best Actor in a Play award.
I hope you enjoyed this look into the works of Edward Gorey, and remember that you never know what awesome, spooky works may be in Special Collections!
The university has a lot of ways to identify itself quickly: a university shield and seal, a university logo and athletic logo, a motto (Ut Prosim,“That I May Serve”), a tagline (“Invent the Future”), and many other icons that signify who we are. But these have all changed over the years, along with the official school name and nicknames. I’d like to share with you just some of the items from the University Archives, which show the different depictions of our shield, seal, and logos.
From our founding in 1872 until March 1896, the university was called Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. Below are two photos of students in athletic gear with sweaters that use different versions of the VAMC initials, one with a large V and AMC surrounding it and one with a large C and VAM inside of it.
The VAMC seal below has symbols for the university, some that continue into the current Virginia Tech seal. The VAMC seal depicts a ribbon with the name; above is the “lamp of learning,” a common symbol for an institution of higher education, sitting atop two books; and below are two quill pens. Within the ribbon are several objects, including a bail of hay, a cotton plant, surveying instruments, rifle with bayonet, a book, a wheel, and a plow.
In March 1896, the university’s name changed to Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute, which was often shortened to Virginia Polytechnic Institute or V.P.I. (In 1944, this shortened form became the school’s official name.) At the same time, President John M. McBryde and his son decided to develop a motto (Ut Prosim), a coat of arms, and a new seal, which includes the motto and coat of arms.
Since this time, the university seal has included the “lamp of learning” and a ribbon of the university’s name, both carried over from the VAMC seal, and the coat of arms, split into four quadrants. The upper left quadrant is the obverse side of the Commonwealth of Virginia seal, an Amazon woman representing the Roman virtue Virtus defeating royal tyranny, a symbolic reference to Virginia’s involvement in the American War of Independence. The upper right shows the surveyor’s instruments, another carryover from the VAMC seal, to illustrate the university’s commitment to engineering. The bottom left seal is a chemical retort and graduate, an addition from the VAMC seal because of the university’s new (as of 1896) commitment to scientific studies. Finally, the bottom right portrays a partially husked corn cob, a replacement for the cotton plant and bail of hay in the VAMC seal, to represent the school’s ongoing commitment to agricultural research.
Below are other versions of the university seal and the VPI initials from this time period, on just a few objects and art pieces we have in Special Collections. The VPI initials on several objects below are all intertwined, while an earlier photo shows students in athletic outfits with a large V with a small P inside.
Interesting to note is the different versions of the representation of Virtus in the first quadrant of the seal. Officially, the Virtus of the Virginia seal should be an Amazon woman and the victim a Roman-style emperor, but several versions of the university seal depicted Virtus as a man. In the painting below, Virtus is a knight. Disturbingly, in the early 1960s, someone drew Virtus and the defeated person as a caricature of a cowboy or early white settler defeating a Native person, possibly because of the Draper’s Meadow massacre in Blacksburg’s early history. It was not used in many places, and it certainly wasn’t used long, as the Board of Visitors in 1963 officially adopted the university seal using the Amazon portrayal from the Virginia seal.
In 1970, the university’s name changed one final time to our current title, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, shortened often to Virginia Tech or VT. The seal has remained the same, except with the full new name surrounding the coat of arms, lamp of learning, and motto, but new logos have been developed. In 1991, the university adopted the logo of a shield with the War Memorial pylons and 1872 founding year, and in 2006, the “Invent the Future” tagline was added, which is sometimes incorporated into the school logo. An athletic logo of a V with a T inside was adopted in 1957, much like the VP on the students above, and in 1984, two art students, Lisa Eichler and Chris Craft, won a competition to create the current athletic logo with a V and T connected.
Below are the current seal and two buttons, one with the athletic logo on the left and one with the university logo on the right.
If you’re interested in learning more about university logos, seals, and other traditional university symbols, such as the HokieBird and the word Hokie, I suggest looking at some of these additional sources, as well as coming in to Special Collections, of course!
As part of Virginia Techs annual observance of its Day of Remembrance, condolence items and artifacts received by the university in the days that followed April 16, 2007, will be displayed at several locations across campus. The displays are among several “Expressions of Remembrance” that will be located in Newman Library, Squires Student Center, Moss Arts Center, and Holtzman Alumni Center; they are free and open to the public.
The exhibit will include materials received from other colleges and universities, as well as some of the large white boards and signs created on the Drillfield the week of April 16, 2007. Additional items include flags, t-shirts, and condolence books, and a quilt from the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance at State University of New York College at New Paltz. The exhibit title came from one of the quilt squares, each of which was made by a SUNY student.
This display can be seen April 8-16 in the Old Dominion Ball Room in Squires Student Center.
Remembering Those Lost
Artifacts include flags flown over the Statue of Liberty and at Tikrit Air Academy in Iraq by soldiers during Operation Iraqi Freedom; Farham Aboussalis painting Ceremonial Eternity; Carol Davis 32 hand-decorated eggs; Marilyn Rogges painting of a child releasing a red balloon; a KoKeshi Doll from the U.S. Navy Fleet Activities, Yokosuka, Japan; and some of the paper cranes received.
This display will be held April 8-16 at Newman Library Special Collections (first floor). Part of the exhibit is in the windows of Special Collections onto the cafe, open during library hours. A second portion of the exhibit is inside Special Collections, open Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm.
A Community of Learners, a Legacy of Achievement
A selection of books will be displayed to honor of the students and faculty lost on April 16, 2007.
This display will be held April 8-16 at Newman Library Learning Commons.
Communities of Caring
A digital exhibit featuring community expressions of support from the April 16 Condolence Archives.
Items include cards and letters written to police and first responders; a display of the badges of police units who came to help Virginia Tech; Cheryl Thompsons painting, Remember the 32; condolence books; quilted squares from Union Village United Methodist Church; black marble laserworks by David Cunningham, and April 17th Hokies United by Miss Prices second grade class from Riverlawn Elementary, Fairlawn, Virginia.
This display will be held April 12-May 3 at the Holtzman Alumni Center.
A quiet, contemplative space for remembrance and reflection, this display will include prayer flags from the Virginia Tech Graduate Arts Council, Hillel, Living Buddhism, and Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the New River Valley and photographs from the community.
This display will be held April 12-16 at the Miles C. Horton Jr. Gallery and Sherwood P. Quillen 71 Reception Gallery in Moss Arts Center.
Today marks the beginning of the 40th Annual Appalachian Studies Association Conference, taking place here at Virginia Tech! Archivist Marc Brodsky has set up an exhibit in Special Collections to show off some of our collections documenting the history of Appalachia. Please come by to take a gander today or tomorrow during our open hours, if you are interested in what he has highlighted from our collections! If you can’t make it, take a lot at some of the display:
One of the earliest documents regards slavery in the 18th century from the Dickson Family Papers, Ms1988-094. An example is the following bill of sale for a “Negro Boy Named Elijah”:
We also have items from the Black, Kent, and Apperson Families Papers, Ms1974-003. Harvey Black, the great-nephew of Blacksburg’s namesake William Black, was a field surgeon in the Civil War. He served as the superintendent of the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Williamsburg, then became the first superintendent of the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum in Marion upon its opening in 1887:
Here is the text of the first annual report for the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum, 1887:
Some of the other collections that I have not pictured here include
Well, tomorrow is the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, so I decided to scour our collections for items pertaining to presidents. At Special Collections you can find all sorts of material related to presidents – presidents of the U.S., presidents of organizations and businesses, and, of course, presidents of Virginia Tech. If you search our blog and our finding aids, you’ll find all sorts of posts and collections referencing all these presidential types. But I’d like to highlight items related to the presidential inaugurations of the U.S. and VT presidents that we maintain.
United States Presidential Inaugurations
The Highty-Tighties, Virginia Tech’s very own Corps of Cadets band, has performed for numerous U.S. presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt at an exposition in 1902 and in the pre-inauguration celebrations for Barack Obama’s first term in 2009. They have also gained national recognition through their performances at twelve inaugural parades, starting with Woodrow Wilson’s second inauguration in 1917 and ending with George W. Bush’s second in 2005. The band was also invited to play at William Howard Taft’s inauguration in 1909, which they were unable to attend, according to letters in Pres. Paul B. Barringer’s records, RG 2/6. During the mid-20th century, these parades doubled as band competitions, and the Highty-Tighties won first prize three years consecutively in 1953, 1957, and 1961, the last year of the inaugural parade competition. Special Collections has photographs and other items related to the Highty-Tighties at a few of the parades in the Historical Photograph Collection.
Since the 2016 election was last week, I thought I’d take a look at what political items Special Collections has in our collections. We have papers of politicians, committees, and local interest groups from students at Virginia Tech to U.S. legislators. These are, of course, only a handful of the collections in Special Collections that you may find of interest if you desire to know more about politics and campaigning in the New River Valley, Virginia, and Appalachia, so come down to learn more or contact us with your queries!
William C. Wampler Congressional Papers, Ms1982-003
I mentioned previously the William C. Wampler Congressional Papers, when I discussed our offsite storage in A Look Behind the Glass Door…Part 2. A Virginia Tech graduate, Wampler served nearly two decades in the U. S. House of Representatives as a Republican from Virginia in the 1950s and 1960s-1980s. His collection contains legislative files, constituent letters, photographs, campaign material, and documents from the House committees he served. Photographs below depict just a portion of the 250-box collection while being inventoried.
Dana Harmon Papers, Ms2011-013
Special Collections is also home to the Dana Harmon Papers, who ran as a Republican in Tennessee in the early 20th century. The two-box collection contains letters, newspaper clippings, family papers, financial papers, and a scrapbook.
Virginia Tech Young Democrats Scrapbook, Ms2014-005
We also have collections related to the Democratic Party in Special Collections. First, we have the Virginia Tech Young Democrats Scrapbook. This collection contains a scrapbook put together by the Young Democrats for 1986 thru 1988. It contains photographs, event programs, newspaper clippings, certificates, newsletters, and local campaign materials. Below are items from the scrapbook.
The following is the Virginia Tech Young Democrats Constitution, c. 1986:
Montgomery County, Virginia, Democratic Committee Records, Ms1989-061
Next is the Montgomery County, Virginia, Democratic Committee Records. Dating from 1961 thru 1994, this eight-box collection consists of minutes from the county Democratic conventions, correspondence with the state electoral board, committee meeting minutes, materials about candidates and campaigns, newspaper clippings about local political issues, polling and registration information, and assorted publications. While the bulk of the material focuses on the Democratic Party’s issues and candidates, there is also literature about Republican and independent/third-party candidates as well as the League of Women Voters.
Have you ever heard the term “vertical file”? Typically, when researchers come in to learn more about a topic, the first place to look is in our vertical files. These are generally folders of newspaper clippings, brochures, press releases, and other items that are arranged by subject. The term itself derives from the vertical filing cabinets that archives may use to hold these collections [for your information, Special Collections uses boxes rather than filing cabinets].
Special Collections has several sets of vertical files:
But I’d like to tell you specifically about the Record Group Vertical Files. This collection is specifically about departments, offices, and colleges at Virginia Tech, including materials advertising the university and articles about it. For example, below is a postcard advertising the Virginia Tech College of Science, the Advisor’s Manual for the VT College of Arts & Sciences, a blank application for the VT Graduate School, and an issue of the Carilion Clinic Report about the VT Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute.
In addition to the educational colleges and departments of the university, we have materials from the operational offices and student groups. Below are examples, including brochures for the Perspective Gallery and HokiePRIDE, an official VT flyer in Arabic, a program for the Alpha Kappa Delta National Sociology Honor Society, and an article about the Muslim Student Association.
Whenever you are looking up the history of the university and you don’t know where to start, this collection is a great first choice. The same holds true for looking up any subjects in all the vertical files we have!
If you are curious what Special Collections looks like behind the scenes, Kira Dietz showed a glimpse of onsite storage previously in this blog. Well, we also have offsite storage in the Library Storage Building, managed by the University Libraries. In addition to Special Collections, Newman Library and the Records Management Department house material at the storage building. Unlike storage onsite, the shelving is so tall and aisles so long, special equipment is used to access materials up to the top and down the rows.
Special Collections houses our large manuscript collections, most of which are accessed less frequently than onsite storage. Space is available where we can work, but we have to schedule with the other departments, who use the same office space. Recently, several students and I have been working on collections housed offsite, including the William C. Wampler Congressional Papers with 250 boxes of files from Hon. Wampler’s nearly two decades in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Pocahontas Mine Collection, which is approximately 900 cu. ft. with over 7,000 maps of mines in southwestern Virginia and Appalachia operated by CONSOL Energy and its predecessors (look out for more info on this collection when processing is done).
The University Libraries are currently working on another offsite storage building, this time with movable shelves. Movable shelves greatly increase the storage capacity in locations, but need strong floors to keep them stable! We also have a small, secure space in the basement of Newman Library that is shared with the rest of the library for temporary storage for our larger or more unwieldy collections, such as part of the Avery-Abex Metallurgical Collection with over 200 containers, many in unusually types and sizes.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this look behind the scenes!