A Sculptor’s Sketches

While his family was busy with operating the Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Norfolk-born Alexander Galt, Jr. (1827-1863) possessed artistic aspirations. His main ambition was to become a first-rate sculptor—and indeed he completed several sculptures in his brief life of 36 years—yet Galt’s sketchbook, housed in the Special Collections archives, is a testament to his mastery of drawing not only portraits and the human form, but also animals, architecture, and landscapes. In 1860, Alexander took the sketchbook with him on a trip to Florence, Italy to study sculpting, and in it he produced numerous beautifully detailed pencil drawings of men, women and children, many whom he names. A detailed sketch of a sitter’s hair falling above her ear reveals Galt’s careful attention to the most intricate curves and details of his subject.

Continue reading

From Slavery to Freedom via Entrepreneurship

Portrait of Keckley from her book, Behind the ScenesOn October 19, 2014 at Dinwiddie Court House, a Virginia historical marker was dedicated to Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (also spelled Keckly). Elizabeth, or ‘Lizzy’ Keckley was born near Petersburg and was a slave on the Burwell Plantation. Her father was Armistead Burwell, the master of the plantation and her mother was a slave woman. She took the name of her slave father George Hobbs. Elizabeth Keckley had a son, George Keckley, who was killed at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, during the first year of the Civil War. As the offspring of a white father, Alexander Kirkland, who had raped his mother, George Keckley passed as white and was thus able to enlist in the Union army at a time of the war when blacks were prohibited from doing so.

Continue reading

Powell Family Papers – Hepburn Addition Available Online

3 June 1778.  Dr. Griffith to Leven Powell at Valley Forge.Through the work of our student assistants, volunteers, and staff, Special Collections has recently reprocessed, digitized, and made the Powell Family Papers, Hepburn Addition available online. The bulk of the collection consists of the correspondence of Leven Powell, U.S. President James Madison, Charles Leven Powell, Charles Leven Powell, Jr., Selina Powell Hepburn, and others. Some of the subjects discussed in the letters include the American Revolution, slavery, the Presidential Election of 1800, the American Civil War, and early American politics. Scans of the collection are now available in the William & Mary Digital Archive.

Continue reading

Pieces of a Past Life

Quote

Booth's Theatre. C.W. Carmer Scrapbook DetailA popular means of documenting personal interests and life events, the practice of scrapbooking dates back centuries.  In contrast to the modern practice of pasting family photographs and vacation mementos onto brightly colored paper, early scrapbooks were often compilations of newspaper clippings, artwork, hand-copied quotes, and letters.  In addition to being aesthetically interesting, old scrapbooks provide unique insight on the lives of their creators.  What did an individual decide was worthy to keep?  How does ephemera reflect personal, local, and national events?

Continue reading