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Archive’s Photograph of Betty Taylor Dandridge to be displayed at National Portrait Gallery

A photographic portrait of Betty Taylor Dandridge, daughter of U. S. President Zachary Taylor, is on its way to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. for an exhibit on first ladies. The photograph was taken in 1860. “Miss Betty,” as she was known, served as the White House's official hostess during her father’s presidency and later settled in Winchester, Virginia with her second husband.

Personnel from Crozier Fine Arts arrived the morning of Thursday, 24 September to pack the picture and deliver it to the National Portrait Gallery. Crozier specializes in moving a...

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Constitution Week: September 17-23

Constitution Week (September 17-23) is an annual celebration of Americans’ liberties, freedoms, and rights as outlined by the Constitution of the United States. 

The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787.  This document established our government and laws in such a way as to build a philosophy of human rights and dignity into the structure of the government itself.  

The Daughters of the American Revolution partnered with Handley Regional Library to create a display on Constitution Week and the right to vot...

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75th Anniversary of V-J Day

September 2 marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.  On that day in 1945, known as V-J Day (Victory over Japan Day), the Japanese boarded the USS Missouri and signed formal surrender documents, finally bringing peace to a world that had seen far too much suffering.  The American General MacArthur, serving as Master of Ceremonies, spoke these powerful words before the signing:

Nor is it for us here to meet, representing as we do a majority of the peoples of the earth, in a spirit of distrust, malice, or hatred.  But rather it is for us, both victors...

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How a Native Wildflower Helped the War Effort during World War II

Today, milkweed plants are often cultivated by nature lovers seeking to attract monarch butterflies. But in World War II, these native wildflowers were sought out for an entirely different reason. Milkweed pods contain silky floss that is both waterproof and buoyant, making it ideal filler for the life preservers relied upon by American sailors and airmen.

Normally, life preservers contained fibers from the seeds of the tropical kapok tree, but Japanese control of the Dutch East Indies prevented access to this material, forcing the U.S. Government to look for alternative sources o...

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107 Years of the Handley Library

The Handley Library first opened its doors in a formal ceremony 107 years ago on August 21, 1913.  The invitation sent out for the event states that “the exercises will be held in the lecture hall of the Library at eight o’clock p.m. and immediately thereafter the reading rooms and books will be open to inspection.”

Winchester had been eagerly awaiting this day for a number of years.  Judge John Handley died in Scranton, PA in February 1895, leaving $250,000 to the City of Winchester to be invested until it reached $500,000, at which time it would be used to build a libr...

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The Strength of Women: New Display on the Suffragette Movement

In August, we remember the Suffragette movement.  Our display this month shows elements of the local fight for women’s right to vote.  In particular, the display highlights Fannie Baker Dunlap, who registered for the vote on October 2, 1920 at 56 years of age, and Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon, a member of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. 

It is just one hundred years since Virginia women won the fight for the right to vote.  In fact, Winchester’s first two women, Isabel E. Baker and Frances W. Beverly, registered to vote on August 27, 1920 – exactly 100 years a...

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Sacred Heart Catholic Church's 150th Anniversary

This month marks the 150th anniversary of the dedication of Winchester’s Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church.  Winchester’s original Catholic Church, known as “the old stone church,” was destroyed during the Civil War, leaving Winchester without a Catholic Church building from 1864 until 1870. During this time, the priests ministering to Winchester celebrated Mass in local homes, and even at the Red Lion Tavern.  The congregation was growing with many new converts, and a new parish became a necessity.  Construction on Sacred Heart Parish began in 1868, and the first Mass wa...

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Remembering and Honoring John Lewis

John Lewis was an amazing man; one of the key participants in the Civil Rights movement.

We mourn his death and look to his life for inspiration. If you would like to learn more about his life and accomplishments, the Handley Regional Library System has his graphic novels, the March trilogy, available at Handley and Bowman Libraries. There is also a signed set in the Stewart Bell Jr. Archives. He reached a new generation through these graphic novels.

There is a children’s book, Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement by An...

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The Stewart Bell Jr. Archives & Research Appointments

The Reading Room of the Stewart Bell Jr. Archives is reopen to researchers. For the safety of staff and researchers, and to protect our collections, we have had to make some changes to our procedures. Researchers will now need to make appointments to do research in the Archives. Currently, researchers are limited to a one hour research appointment per day. Research appointment times are as follows:  

Monday to Thursday: 10:15 AM to 11:15 AM, 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM, 1:15 PM to 2:15 PM, 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM, 3:45 PM to 4:45 PM, 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Friday: 10:15 AM to 11:15...

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(His)tory: John Bruce

John Bruce (1793-1855) was a man who spent over twenty years of his life finding ways to make an impact on his community. He was born in Scotland, but emigrated to the United States and settled in Winchester. Some people make impacts through teaching and preaching, some through caring for people’s well-being, but others find that they are best suited to improving the community through other means, as John Bruce did by overseeing various constructions.

Bruce must have had an eye for beauty as well as good construction, because he was the architect for the original Christ Episcopal ...

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May 25: Memorial Day and the First Battle of Winchester

Memorial Day, a day to honor and mourn those who died serving in the Armed Forces, originated in the years following the Civil War, through it did not become a federal holiday until 1971. The Civil War caused more bloodshed than any other conflict in U.S. history, claiming the lives of about 500,000 soldiers. After the war, Americans began holding tributes to fallen soldiers every Spring. Memorial Day later expanded to honor those who lost their lives in other conflicts and wars.

By coincidence, Memorial Day this year falls on May 25, the 158th anniversary of the First Battle of W...

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New to Digital Collections! The Journal of Alexander Balmain

The Stewart Bell Jr. Archives Digital Collections now includes the Journal of Rev. Alexander Balmain, the rector of Frederick Parish from 1782 to 1821. The journal covers the years 1777 to 1820 and includes a wealth of information for people interested in the early history of Winchester and its inhabitants.

Balmain was born in Scotland in 1740 and originally trained to be a Presbyterian minister. He first moved to America 1767 to tutor the children of Richard Henry Lee in Westmoreland County. He returned to England briefly to become ordained as a minister in the Established Church...

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(Her)story: Businesswomen of Winchester

Winchester has certainly been home to many remarkable people, including many women over the decades who owned and operated their own businesses. Several in particular stand out for the unique ways they showed strength in their careers as businesswomen.

Upon the death of her father in 1926, Lucy Fitzhugh Kurtz (1874-1968) inherited not one, but two businesses: the Kurtz Furniture Store and the Kurtz Funeral Home. The two businesses were incorporated in 1947 under the name of George W. Kurtz, Inc. Lucy remained the company president until 1968, the year she died at the impressive ag...

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May I Have this Dance?

While going through a collection of personal papers, staff at the Stewart Bell Jr. Archives found this sweet handmade dance card for a Grand Masquerade Ball. There isn’t much information about who hosted the ball or when, but the dances, which include a grand march, the two-step, the waltz, German figure, and the Virginia Reel were all popular in the middle to late nineteenth century.

This particular item comes from the papers of Isaac Fontaine Hite (1807-1884), Hite was born at the Belle Grove plantation in Middletown, Frederick County, to Major Isaac Hite Jr. and his wife, Ann T...

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(Her)story: Willa Cather

Did you know that a famous classic American writer was originally from Frederick County?  When people think about Willa Cather (1873-1946), they often associate her with the Midwest (she spent her teenage and college years there, and many of her novels are set in the Midwest), but actually Cather spent much of her childhood in our neighborhood.  

Willa was born at the Boak House in Gore, and the next year moved with her family to the house known as Willow Shade, about a mile to the east.  She lived in that house until the age of nine, when her family moved to N...

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