Baby showers, Easter, church dinners, my niece’s wedding, Fourth of July picnics, a funeral of a friend from church, vacations with family and friends, prayer shawl meetings, festivals (yes, even the Virginia Festival of the Book), Virginia Historical Society staff birthdays, Sunday dinners, and even working Saturdays in the VHS library are some of the reasons I have used my cookbook collection this year. I am blessed to live in a country where food can be found in abundance. My vegetable garden did very poorly this year, and I am grateful that I live close to a grocery store, where I can buy a tomato to supplement my meager homegrown supply! This is so different from the situation Virginians faced during World War I.
During World War I, the United States, even before declaring war, encouraged its citizens to share their bounty with the soldiers and citizens of the Allied Powers in Europe and Great Britain. The United States grew more food than any other country, and it became so important to the cause that Germans attacked ships carrying food along with other war supplies across the Atlantic. After formally declaring war on Germany in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson issued an executive order creating the U. S. Food Administration that August to assure the supply, distribution, and conservation of food during the war. Herbert Hoover was appointed administrator of the Food Administration, and he appealed to the American people’s sense of patriotism when he called upon them to sacrifice through voluntary food rationing and substitutes. He stated in his memoirs that his job was to ask people to “Go back to simple food, simple clothes, simple pleasures. Pray hard, work hard, sleep hard and play hard. Do it all courageously and cheerfully.” By the end of the war, fourteen million Americans (primarily women) joined the Food Administration by signing the membership cards found in their publications.
And these women collected and produced cookbooks:
In all of these cookbooks, the most appealing recipe to me is for war candy. Ingredients are simply sweet chocolate, raisins, and vanilla and remind me of the raisinettes that my girlfriend Karen eats at the movies! If you want to try it, the recipe is below, or you can get a sample on the World War I Behind the Scenes tour on Saturday August 30, 2014. There you will see our cookbook collection (as well as the staff kitchen!) and other amazing treasures from World War I.
Paulette Schwarting is Director of Technical Services at the Virginia Historical Society.
In 1961, a small group of white and black volunteers rode public buses into the South to demonstrate that interstate travel facilities remained segregated in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Freedom Riders faced arrest and beatings in their efforts to compel the federal government to enforce the law.
When we think of the modern civil rights movement, we often think about events in the Deep South. Images from Virginia rarely appeared on the nightly news as the commonwealth avoided much of the state-sanctioned violence that occurred in Alabama and Mississippi. Nonetheless, it was often legal decisions in Virginia that provided the justification for federal involvement in the ending of Jim Crow.
Similarly, when we think of the Freedom Riders, we recall the iconic image of the burning Greyhound bus outside Anniston, Alabama, the Klan-led beatings at bus stations in Birmingham and Montgomery, and the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of the protesters at Mississippi’s infamous Parchmen Farm. We don’t think about Virginia. But court cases initiated in the commonwealth played an important part of the Freedom Rides by providing legal groundwork that led to the ending of segregation in interstate transportation.
When the Freedom Riders arrived in Richmond on May 4, 1961, they discovered two cafeterias in the bus terminal. Although the signs had been removed, it was clear that one served black travelers and the other served white travelers. Integrated groups patronized both cafeterias and received service. One of the Freedom Riders, Frances Bergman, reported that “there was surprise and much curiosity, but no incidents.”
Challenging Jim Crow transportation in the Old Dominion was not always so easy. On July 16, 1944, twenty-seven-year-old Irene Morgan boarded a Greyhound bus in Gloucester, Virginia, to travel to Baltimore. When the bus stopped in Saluda, the driver ordered Morgan to give her seat to a white passenger. Morgan, who was recovering from a miscarriage, refused. After an altercation, she was arrested and later tried and convicted of violating a state law that required passengers “to take and occupy the seat or seats or other spaces assigned to them by the driver.” Morgan appealed and eventually the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1945, the court found that state laws mandating Jim Crow seating violated the Constitution’s commerce clause.
Thirteen years later, in December 1958, Bruce Boynton, a law student at Howard University, was traveling from Washington, D. C., to his home in Selma, Alabama. In Richmond, Boynton was refused service in the bus terminal’s white-only restaurant. He asserted his right as an interstate passenger, under Morgan v. Virginia, to sit where he wanted. Police arrested Boynton, and he was convicted and fined for trespassing.
Martin A. Martin, a local attorney working with the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, brought suit. Martin claimed Boynton’s conviction violated the commerce clause, the Interstate Commerce Act, and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which in a 7 to 2 ruling handed down on December 5, 1960, found Virginia’s law mandating segregation in the bus terminal unconstitutional. Because the primary purpose of the restaurant was to provide service to bus passengers, many of whom were involved in interstate travel, racial segregation in the terminal violated the Interstate Commerce Act. Five months later, the Freedom Riders entered Richmond.
The Virginia Historical Society is showing the documentary film Freedom Riders on Thursday, August 28, at 6:30 p.m. Freedom Riders is the third in a series of four films being shown by the Virginia Historical Society in 2014 to encourage community conversations about the changing meaning of freedom and equality in contemporary American society. Following the film, there will be commentary by Oliver W. Hill, Jr., professor of psychology at Virginia State University and son of the famed civil rights attorney, and audience discussion.
Bill Obrochta is the manager of educational services at the Virginia Historical Society.
From answering phone inquiries to photographing new acquisitions, the staff at the VHS have a wide range of talents that help make our collections accessible to the world. Who are the talented men and women of the VHS? In a series of “Meet the Staff” blog posts, we will introduce you to the people who work behind the scenes to collect, preserve, and interpret Virginia history.
Meet Tony Walters
What is your job title?
When did you begin working at the VHS?
I began working a the VHS on November 1, 2012.
What are your job duties?
At the VHS, my main job duty is to assist patrons in our research library. I also retrieve and reshelve manuscripts, fulfill mail orders, and perform various clerical and organizational duties that help keep the library functioning on a daily basis.
How did you become interested in history?
I read a lot of Asterix when I was very small, and when my reading improved, I moved on to lots of historical fiction. My parents were always sure to impart an appreciation of history to me, and my father sealed the deal by taking me to Colonial Williamsburg for a vacation when I was in the third grade.
What is the favorite part of your job?
I really enjoy meeting all of the interesting people who come to the VHS to conduct research in our library and learning more about the diverse topics they choose to research.
What has been your most memorable moment at the VHS?
Working during the incredibly busy week when the National Genealogical Conference was in Richmond.
What is your favorite item in your office? Why?
The little green Army men who decorate the main desk in the library. They’ve been here longer than I and add a lot of character to our desk, not to mention they consistently amuse our patrons.
What is your favorite collection piece at the VHS?
All of the John James Audubon books that we have, particularly our Royal Octavo edition of Birds of America (Rare Books QL674 .A92 1840/44). Check out the blog that I wrote about this collection. You can also visit our website to learn about Audubon’s Viviparous Quadrupeds (Rare Books folio QL715 .A916 1845)
What is your favorite historical period?
The Middle Ages
What are you hobbies?
When I am not at the VHS, I enjoy listening to music, watching movies, reading books, and playing soccer and tennis.
If you did not work at the VHS, what would you be doing?
I would be working in Latin or South American promoting environmental education.
Is this Jefferson’s desk?
There are many reproductions of the desk on which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. Some have even been mistaken for the original. Each contained a copy of the letter written by Jefferson to his son in law, Joseph Coolidge, reproduced through a photographic method called “photographic drawing” and indistinguishable from the original with the naked eye. This replica was built by James Degges and given as a gift to the department of the treasury. Jefferson’s original desk is at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
The Virginia Historical Society has been collecting since 1831. Included in our unique collection are 8-million processed manuscripts, 200,000 books, 290,000 prints and photographs, and 32,000 museum objects documenting the daily lives and times of all Virginians. The object featured here offers one opportunity to look into the past. Millions more treasures await you at our headquarters in Richmond, by appointment at Virginia House, and online at vahistorical.org.
It is our pleasure to host Adrianna ScheerCook as guest author of this post. SheerCook was recognized at the Virginia Historical Society’s 2014 awards luncheon on July 16. She was the winner of Virginia Commonwealth University’s 2014 Undergraduate History Paper of the Year Award for her paper entitled “Phyllis Galanti and the Importance of Private Citizens’ Activism during the Vietnam War”. Along with personal interviews with Phyllis Galanti, SheerCook used the Galanti papers in the VHS collection for her research.
On June 17, 1966, Lieutenant Commander Paul Galanti of the U.S. Navy was shot down over North Vietnam, beginning almost seven years of captivity for him and a lifetime of public service for his wife Phyllis. During Paul’s time at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp, Phyllis transformed from a shy navy wife into a whirlwind political force who brought governmental, national, and international attention to the plight of POWs in Southeast Asia. Her comprehensive collection of documents housed in the Virginia Historical Society’s archives reveals her belief that the cooperative actions of private citizens was capable of influencing the outcome of international affairs, particularly the treatment and return of the POWs during the Vietnam War.
Phyllis’ mobilization efforts on behalf of the POWs started locally with her leadership of the Richmond “Write Hanoi” campaign in February 1971. Through this campaign, individuals were asked to write letters to the North Vietnamese government expressing their wishes for the government to treat the POWs humanely in accordance with the 1949 Geneva Convention standards. These guidelines included releasing a list of all POWs, allowing the prisoners to send and receive letters, and providing them with access to adequate medical care.
Phyllis roused massive participation in this movement, motivating groups from elementary schools, colleges, labor unions, churches, and businesses to volunteer by manning sites for the letters to be collected and written and by organizing letter drives in their respective spheres. Fourth grade teacher Joyce Goforth from Bowling Green Elementary School was just one of the teachers to send Phyllis letters from her students, while Reynolds Metals Company enclosed a brochure about Paul in employees’ salary envelopes. The United Virginia Bank also included pamphlets about the POWs in their checking account mailings, resulting in 235,000 of these leaflets reaching Richmonders. All these efforts resulted in the collection of 452,000 letters from Richmonders to the North Vietnamese government.
Soon, Phyllis’s work on behalf of the POWs moved to the international stage. In 1971, she organized a delegation to travel to Stockholm, Sweden, to deliver the letters from the Richmond “Write Hanoi” campaign. Many major news outlets, such as the Associated Press, covered the visit, and she met with the Swedish Red Cross and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, Phyllis’s ultimate goal was to get an audience with the North Vietnamese ambassador to Sweden to directly deliver the letters and voice her concerns about the treatment of POWs. This was unprecedented, and no one, including the press and the local U.S. embassy, believed she would be able to accomplish it.
Undeterred by the extremely remote chance of obtaining such a meeting, Phyllis went directly to the North Vietnamese embassy and asked for an audience. When the officials denied her request, she warned them that she would come back with members of the media to publicly deliver the letters to the embassy. The North Vietnamese delegation did not want such publicity, and consequently, because of her persistence, she secured an hour and twenty minute long meeting with Mr. Viet, the charge d’affaires. Her trip was a great success because she, as a private individual, had a chance to convey the sentiments of the American people both to the diplomatic representatives of North Vietnam and to an international audience.
Ever humble, Phyllis insisted that she and the other military wives were simply “making it up as they went along.” In fact, they were moving out of their supportive background roles to take an active stand against the inhumane treatment of POWs in Vietnam, and they succeeded.
Happily, Paul returned home to Phyllis in February 1973. They resumed their life together, and both remained active in the Richmond community, serving as educators about veteran affairs. Appropriately, the Virginia War Memorial dedicated its new education wing to Paul and Phyllis in 2010 to honor their work restoring the monument as well as their decades acting on behalf of prisoners of war and veterans. Throughout her amazing life, Phyllis truly demonstrated the impact a determined, caring, and brave individual could have on the lives of so many.
Periodically the Virginia Historical Society will post content created by guest writers. The opinions expressed are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Virginia Historical Society, its members, or its staff. The Virginia Historical Society encourages discussion; however, we reserve the right to remove comments that are offensive, threatening, or insulting.
There is no question that the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is the star of Richmond’s art scene. However, its neighbor, the Virginia Historical Society, also has a few gems from the art world that stand out in its collection. My two favorites are relatively modern works, both valuable and unique editions from prominent artists. Though both are less directly related to Virginia than many of our collections, they unquestionably improve the depth and diversity of our holdings. The first, Cy Twombly’s Souvenirs of D’arros & Gaeta, is a beautiful collection of the artist’s work from 1990. Cy Twombly (April 25, 1928–July 5, 2011) was an accomplished painter and sculptor who achieved great success in the twentieth century, with many of his works currently on display in the Louvre and the Museum of Modern Art. The Lexington-born painter spent much of 1990 on the island of D’Arros (Seychelles) and in the city of Gaeta, Italy, working on a collection of untitled drawings. All of them were created with acrylic, crayon, and pencil on paper and collected into this book in 1992. The last page features a picture of Twombly with his back to the camera as he walks through a forest of palm trees on the island of Praslin (Seychelles). Only 1,000 limited copies were printed, and of those only the first 100 were signed by the artist. The Virginia Historical Society has number 84 of those 100. The second piece of artwork is a fascinating oddball of a book, Stephen King and Barbara Kruger’s My Pretty Pony. King (b. September 21, 1947) is an extremely popular award-winning author of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. Kruger (b. January 26, 1945) is an American artist noteworthy for her acclaimed conceptual and pop art. Together, they combined to create a unique book for the Whitney Museum of Art, of which 250 editions were issued and signed by the author and artist/designer. It combines a Stephen King short story and Barbara Kruger’s artwork within a dramatic stainless steel cover inlaid with a digital clock. The story focuses on the passage of time, illustrated through a man speaking to his grandchild. Though not as overtly dark as many of King’s other works, it is a slightly grim meditation that ends up characterizing time as a pony that is “pretty, but with a wicked heart,” although the narrator admits that “having a pony to ride was better than having no pony at all, no matter how the weather of its heart might lie.” Interspersed between King’s text are Kruger’s images, each bearing a word or two that by the end of the book complete the sentence: “Time ain’t got nothing to do with how fast you can count.” Both of these books are generous gifts from Frances A. Lewis, who is a winner of the National Medal of the Arts, one of the founders of Best Products with her husband Sydney Lewis, and a kind and generous benefactor of the Virginia Historical Society. Both of these wonderful artistic creations can be requested in the Virginia Historical Society’s reading room.
Tony Walters is a library clerk at the Virginia Historical Society.