Have you ever found an old website with the Wayback Machine or played the 1990 version of Oregon Trail in your browser? If you have, you’ve used the services of the Internet Archive, which Brewster Kahle founded in 1996 and which has captured and preserved over 366 billion websites since then. Here’s a shot of the home page for William & Mary in 1997:
This quote from the diary of Civil War chaplain William E. Wiatt documents an unusual aspect of the his duties. The chaplain carried a circulating library for the soldiers he was tending. Wiatt’s diary has been published, but the original is still in private hands. (Alex L. Wiatt. Confederate Chaplain William Edward Wiatt: An Annotated Diary. Lynchburg, Va.: H. E. Howard, Inc., 1994. E 635 W52 1994.) However, Swem’s Special Collections holds the account book Wiatt used to record the circulation of the books. (Mss. MsV Ap39)
William Wiatt (1826-1918) was a Baptist minister who also had taught school in Kentucky and Alabama before returning to his native Gloucester County, Virginia. He served the 26th Virginia Infantry Regiment, Confederate States Army, from 1861 until its disbandment in 1865. The unit spent the first part of the war guarding the Peninsula, but later transferred to Georgia and Florida. The troops returned to Virginia and were in defense of Petersburg before surrendering at Appomattox. (See Alex L. Wiatt. 26th Virginia Infantry. Lynchburg, Va.: H. E. Howard, Inc., 1984. E 581.5 26th W5 1984.)
While Wiatt notes giving out New Testaments, religious tracts and newspapers (the Religious Herald and the Virginia Advocate), the books in his lending library are both devout and secular in nature. Two examples of titles from the page below are Sarah B. Judson and Eagle Pass. Sarah Judson was a member of the American mission to Burma (book published 1848), and Eagle Pass, or Life on the Border, was published in 1852. While it is not easy to identify books based on short or popular titles, it might be fruitful study for someone to research these book titles and write an article.
In 1997, the College of William & Mary purchased property on Ironbound Road from a prominent African American couple, Charles E. (d. 2001) and Zelda DeBerry Gary (d. 2010). He, the owner of the West End Valet Shop and a notary public, and she, a nurse who once worked for the James City County school system, were long-time residents of Williamsburg. Both tremendously enriched the community through years of civic involvement in a number of local organizations.
Thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Laura K. Lawrence of Williamsburg, the commonplace book of Captain Walter Snow of Maryland, a prominent ship captain and lawyer during the nineteenth century, has found a permanent home in William and Mary’s Special Collections Research Center, where it has been digitized and will be preserved for future generations of students and scholars to use and enjoy.