Monday, April 14, 2014

Museums are Fashionable too!

Judging from the success and popularity of the “Hollywood Costume” exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts last fall (curated by the Victoria & Albert Museum in England), the history of costume and fashion is still a big draw for museum visitors. The Lynchburg Museum is fortunate to have a substantial amount of textiles from all eras in our collection, some which are currently on display. Military uniforms from World War One through the Korean War may be seen in the Piedmont Pride Gallery while items made or purchased in Lynchburg may be seen in the Lynchburg Life Gallery and on the Main Stage.
The Museum recently put this 1930s evening gown of Miriam
Moss Jones on display in the Lynchburg Life Gallery
1923 Wedding Dress of Miriam Jones
Beadwork on the drop waist
While some clothing items must simply wait their turn to have the spotlight, there are still several pieces which cannot be displayed due to their fragile condition. Beaded items must be handled with extreme care.

This month’s Awesome Artifact blog is focusing on items donated to the museum by Mrs. John Williams Jones (nee Miriam Diuguid Moss). Mrs. Jones was born on July 15, 1897 and would have been coming of age during the 1920s.  She was married in June of 1923 and the Museum has her cream silk and crepe-de-chine wedding dress and the navy blue chiffon ensemble known as the “going away” dress, among other items of hers, in our collection.

More glass beadwork on the bodice of the bridal dress


The navy blue "going away" dress is what the bride would put on after the ceremony and reception, then get into the “Just Married” vehicle for the honeymoon.

The "going away" dress without the attachable sleeves

The 1920s were the era of the flapper dress; flapper being a slang term for a young woman “testing out her wings” or “leaving the nest.” The dresses often had a low waistline and could be sleeveless or above the knee. Mrs. Jones’s dress is long and has the optional long sleeve component she could wear, perhaps something more modest for a new bride. The beadwork on the dress is exceptional, as on the beaded purse and the small cloche style hat.

Matching cloche hat and handbag for the bride's fashionable "going away" look


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Public Education for Lynchburg's African-Americans

After a very successful First Friday, celebrating Dunbar High School, this month’s blog takes a look at another school established for African-Americans in Lynchburg in the early 20th Century.

Roster of graduates from the Jackson Street School, 1905-1925
In 1991, the Lynchburg Museum received a donation from Lynchburg City Schools consisting of turn of the twentieth century documents and photographs. Chosen from that collection, is a ledger book entitled Graduates Colored High School, Lynchburg 1905-1925. Listed, in perfect script, are the names of students in each year’s graduating class, class mottoes, and later job occupations, marriages, and/or deaths. The Museum does not know who kept the ledger book but it was for the graduates of the Jackson Street School, then named Lynchburg Colored High School. According to the records, from 1905-1925 there were 339 graduates of the Jackson Street school. The graduates spread out along the east coast; Philadelphia, New York, and North Carolina, and attended colleges such as Howard University and Virginia Seminary. Many became teachers or were married. Other examples listed beside the names are: railroad clerk, knitting or hosiery mill worker, piano or music teacher, physician, seamstress, stenographer, or employed by the government in Washington D.C.

The graduating class of 1925 and post-graduation information including employment and life events
According to Lynchburg and its People by William Asbury Christian, the first free public schools in Lynchburg opened their doors on April 5, 1871.[1] Some residents did not want to pay taxes for public schools but “this was the beginning of one of the best systems of public schools in the state.”[2] The Jackson Street School originally operated inside Jackson Street Methodist Church at 901 Jackson St. In 1911, the Yoder School was built on Jackson between First and Second Streets, giving black children an actual school building. This school served the Tinbridge Hill community. Though the black schools in Lynchburg mostly received used textbooks and “a lot of the finances were lacking...the black teachers were more caring about the black [kids],” said Marvin Stevens in Remembering Tinbridge Hill

Jackson Street School

In 1923, Dunbar High School opened for black high school students which made the Yoder School an elementary school. After years of neglect and a declining neighborhood population, the Yoder School was demolished in 1970.[3] As the Lynchburg schools were desegregated, Dunbar High closed in 1970 and those students began attending E. C. Glass High School.  It reopened as the Dunbar Middle school we know today. 

Commencement Program, Class of 1910
The 1910 Graduates

[1] William Asbury Christian, Lynchburg and Its People, (Lynchburg: J. P. Bell Company Printing, 1900), 287.
[2] Christian, 288.
[3] Carolyn Bell, ed. Remembering Tinbridge Hill, (Lynchburg: Blackwell Press, 2011), 89.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

An Early Library for Lynchburg

Working at the Lynchburg Museum can be a lot like Christmas. When the Curator and staff are tracking down items for exhibits, they may open a box and become distracted by other artifacts. This is exactly how January’s Awesome Artifact was discovered.

January’s artifact is the 1883 novel Jenifer by Annie Thomas, enclosed in a book cover that proclaims: “The Lynchburg Circulating Library, owned and conducted by J. D. Suter & Co., Booksellers and Stationers, No. 1017 Main Street.” Investigating the origin of a single item easily becomes a history lesson. In this case, a single glance into an archival folder yielded an item which can be traced back to the beginning of an institution which today is taken for granted: the public library. Early libraries were not free. In the late 1800s many of the well-educated and wealthy had personal libraries or the money to borrow books from circulating libraries such as Suter’s.  There was not a true public library for all Lynchburg residents to patronize until 1966.   

For a small fee, one could borrow and read a book like Jenifer, Selected Poems of Matthew Arnold, or a Dickens Reader. These books were available through subscriptions offered to businesses ($10/year). Harper & Brothers (the future HarperCollins) published 52 books a year especially for this purpose under the Harper Franklin Square Library imprint. 

For several years J. D. Suter owned a prominent bookselling and library business on Main Street. His letterhead boasts a variety of items available, from school books, sheet music, and gold pens to imported stationery. It also states “Rare Books, and Books that are Out of Print, Obtained at Short Notice.” The credit account for Mrs. I. S. Moore in July of 1886 lists purchased items such as N. Y. Fashion B’zar, Maurice Mystery, and the service of “Repairing Gold Pen.” Other receipts in the Museum’s collection include items like ink holders, pencils and blank books, 3 volumes of Scott’s History, Swinton’s Complete Geography, Bingham’s Latin Grammar, valentines, toothpicks, games of Cock Robin, and a vase. 

In the Trade Notes section of an 1884 issue of The American Bookseller, Suter announced: “…that his business has been enlarged by the taking-in of a partner, and that a job office will be added to their other business.” Suter & Co. also placed an ad in an 1884 Publisher’s Weekly which may have been to fulfill requests from customers, either for purchase or for the circulating library: 

Books Wanted
John D. Suter & Co., Lynchburg, Va.

Philostratus’s Life of Apollonius of Tyana, tr. By Rev. Ed. Berwick
The Jesus of History, by Sir R. D. Hanson
The New Virginians, Blackwood, 1879.
Wolfenbuttel, Fragments, tr. By C. Voysey.
Lyle’s Collection of Poems and Ballads, 1827.

Suter’s eventually closed and the Museum could not locate any images of the actual store, but for a time, it seemed to offer Lynchburg a little bit of everything. J. D. Suter died sometime before 1900, leaving a widow, Fannie. 

As the past intersects with the present, it leaves many thinking about the fate of libraries and bookstores because of the digitization of printed matter. With so much information available on the internet (but unfortunately, much of it inaccurate), libraries are not the public institutions they used to be. Neither are the brick and mortar bookstores, though books continue to sell through online vendors. Some wonder if all physical books will become relics or artifacts, but time will tell.

Business Card of John D. Suter & Company's First Location

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


In 2008 the Lynchburg Museum acquired a large collection of toy soldiers from Mr. Buddy Schmidt. These are not the typical tin soldiers associated with the Christmas tale; these soldiers are made of lead. Likely, the toy soldiers were produced by the Barclay Manufacturing Company, which was located in West Hoboken, New Jersey. Barclay became famous for its line of “Dimestore Doughboys,” several of which are pictured here. Reproductions may still be purchased from the Barclay website.[i]


The term “Dimestore” comes from the most common place a little boy could buy his toy soldiers – the “Five and Dime” store.  The average price of the items in their bins was either a nickel or a dime.  At its height, Barclay was manufacturing half a million toys a WEEK![ii]

Signal Corpsmen with flags, carrier pigeons, radio, and antenna
Artilleryman with anti-aircraft gun

Artilleryman about to load a cannon shell

The name “Doughboy” is a nickname for American soldiers dating back to the nineteenth century and was used predominantly during World War I. The exact origin of the nickname is unknown. Several possibilities include: the American soldier's love of British "fried flour dumplings" while overseas in World War I, a slang term for their pale skin, and a name for a cook's apprentice.[iii] Post-WWI replicas of the famous sculpture, The Spirit of the American Doughboy, by V.M. Viquesney, were purchased or commissioned by cities around the United States.[iv] Of course, Lynchburg has its own beloved Doughboy at the base of Monument Terrace.

Lynchburg's own Doughboy at "The Listening Post"


The first ‘five and dime’ was F.W. Woolworth’s, originally called the “Great Five Cent Store.” Children could buy marbles, embroidery kits, magnets, toy soldiers, and potato guns while mom could get notions and other cheap household items. Woolworth’s was also one of the first stores to allow customers to shop without the assistance of a sale clerk.[v]  Other ‘five and dime’ chains included Ben Franklin, S.S. Kresge (K-Mart), and Walton’s Five and Dime (Wal-Mart). Lynchburg had a variety of five and dimes scattered throughout the downtown area. Other local stores such as Leggett’s, Guggenheimer’s, and Bragassa’s would have offered a selection of dimestore toys.

Gunner with machine gun

A selection of dimestore doughboys are currently on display, along with other vintage toys, on the third floor of the Lynchburg Museum at the Old Court House in Gifford Gallery. The Museum also has numerous issues of “Old Toy Soldier,” a collector’s magazine, generously donated to us by Mr. Roger Garfield.

Mess Hall potato peeler, cook, and food server
Eventually, the lead soldiers disappeared from the five and dimes, but not due to any health risks. By the 1960s, plastic toy soldiers were a cheaper, lighter alternative and soon filled the bins at variety stores. 

Two litter bearers take a wounded comrade to a homemade hospital

[ii] Young, William H. and Young, Nancy K. 2007. The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing.