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History Under the Bed

Virginia Black found a Tupperware container containing letters and other documents belonging to one of her ancestors, James Cooper stashed beneath her mother’s bed. She didn’t know precisely what it included, and she certainly didn’t think anyone else would care.

She was mistaken.  Materials like her mother’s are exactly what Laura Drake Davis, coordinator of The Civil War 150 Legacy Project, loves to find.

Virginia Black’s find made me curious and I took a look in the archives and found references to her ancestor.  In the January 18, 1849 edition of The National Era newspaper there is an announcement that reads:

JAMES COOPER , Whig , has been elected United States Senator from Pennsylvania, in the place of Mr. Cameron. There were three ballotings, and on the third ballot the vote stood – Brodhead 62, Cooper 66, Stevens 3.

A few months later when he took office there are announcements of his being elected to both the Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Territories.   The Committee on Territories must have been an excited and challenging appointment in the mid-1800s.

The Civil War 150 Legacy Project is a collaborative effort by the state library of Virginia  and the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission.   Their goal is to spend 2011 digitizing as many old documents currently in the hands of Virginia citizens as possible.  The collection they are building will by open to the public through an online portal.  The best part of this program is that the materials are scanned on the spot and they go home with the owner so historical researchers win and there are no losers.

Bill Lohmann,  the author of “Are We There Yet: A Modern American Family’s Cross-Country Adventure” and “Backroads & Byways of Virginia”, has written up the whole process used by the Legacy Project in Finding history in unlikely places in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

If you would like to participate in the Legacy Project, please locate items within your family collections that document the Civil War and the Civil-War era.

Items suitable for the Civil War 150 Legacy Project include: Original Letters, Military passes / discharge papers, Diaries, Photographs, Hand-drawn maps, Pension materials, Hand-drawn sketches, and Claims for damages by the Confederate Army or Federal Army.

The items must be owned by the individual presenting the materials for digitization. Materials that are photocopies and/or subject to United States copyright law may not be submitted for digitization. Virginians interested in having their materials scanned should consult the committee calendar to find out when the scanners will be in each county.

For general questions or for further information you may also contact the regional coordinators at cw150legacy@lva.virginia.gov.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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