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100 Year Old Junk Mail

October 11, 2016

Archival collections can answer many questions, but they can also create many more.  While preparing the records of St. Luke Penny Savings/Consolidated Bank from around 1914-1917 for researchers, I’ve often thought to myself what director Maggie Walker thought reading letter after letter, especially junk mail, addressed to “Dear Sir”.

Or what she thought about all the junk mail in general.

The clerk at least seemed to think they were important enough to keep and file away, but not always important enough to open. Yet, since junk mail is something so many of us toss into the trash without a second thought, seeing it appear in an archives is a rare treat.

So what did junk mail look like 100 years ago?

Well it seems that just about everyone had something to sell to a bank: adding machines, stamping machines, perforator machines, label making machines, coin-counting machines, coin wrappers, coin bags, check files, signature card files, checks (patriotic ones with flags will “curb hoarding” during wartime), bonds, banker’s pins (watch out for those things, they are sharp), safes, ledgers, signs, rubber stamps, inkstands, and fingerprinting kits to name a few. It takes a lot of money to run a bank. Pun intended.

And how did one entice people to buy these products? In many of the same ways we do now.


100 year old click-bait.


Flashy graphics


Gimmicks, such as this flyer that turns into a fan.

And lots of and lots of samples. In fact, if I never see another check sample again it will be too soon. However, not only are there check and check book samples. We found a few other things such as…

“Sanitary” cups


Adhesive labels


And even tile. Yes, there was a piece of tile filed away in the bank’s letter boxes. Unfortunately, I can’t attest to the fact that it holds up perfectly for 100 years.


So did any of these tactics work? It seems so, because amidst the other correspondence I found a receipt for a rush order of 1000 pencils bearing the inscription “St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. You can figure out your savings with this pencil.”

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Jessica Bennett
Special Collections and Art Librarian

From the Archives: VUU Alumni attend National Baptist Convention

September 16, 2016

It was 107 years ago this week that Virginia Union University alumni took this photo at the National Baptist Convention in Columbus, Ohio.


From the Union-Hartshorn Journal, Vol. X, No. 1, November 1909, [photo] inside cover, p. 2.


These are all graduates of what is now known as The Virginia Union University, Richmond, Va. They are members of The National Baptist Convention.  This group was taken in Columbus, Ohio, September 17, 1909.

Top row from left to right – Rev. E. A. P. Cheek, Columbia, S.C.; Rev. R. T. Frye, Lexington, Ky.; Rev. E. T. Martin, Chicago, Ill.; Rev. A. C. Powell, New York City; Rev. W. F. Graham, Richmond, Va.; Rev. A. Gordon, Philadelphia; Rev. S. E. J. Watson, Hot Springs, Ark.

Middle row from left to right – Rev. T. L. Griffith, Des Moines, Iowa; Rev. J. W. Boykin, Camden, S. C.; Rev. L. A. Carter, Knoxville, Tenn.; Rev. E. W. Merchant, Little Rock, Ark.; Rev. Sutton E. Griggs, Nashville, Tenn.; Rev. A. Childs, Philadelphia, Pa.

Seated – Rev. J. H. A. Cyrus, Port Royal , Va.; Rev. H. W. Childs, Pittsburg; Rev. R. C. Judkins, Montgomery, Ala.; Rev. William Jones, Detroit, Mich.; Rev. J. H. Eason, Aanniston, Ala.; Rev. H. Powell, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Rev. J. M. Coleman, Anniston, Ala.

( See Alumni Notes, p. 10.)



If you are interested in learning more about the history of Virginia Union University or viewing our collections, contact the VUU Archives & Special Collections.


Selicia Allen

Special Collections Librarian/University Archivist 






New Acquisitions: August 2015

September 9, 2016

The Archives & Special Collections Department announces the recent addition of several items to our collections.

Gypsy and the other poems by James Baldwin, illustrated by Leonard Baskin, limited edition, published by Gehenna Press, 1989.

Broadside: Davis & Lawrence Green Syrup for Coughs: The Original and Genuine. St. George’s, Bermuda. Circa 1950.

The Torch Light: “Our Sunshine Publication.” Vol. 1, Nos. 9-11, February – April 1931.

Photograph album of 66 vernacular images showing African people in various locales, their dress, dwellings, and landscapes from the early 20th century.

Colonial police officer’s photograph album of images taken in 1926-1927 of Nyeri, Kenya and the Kikuyu and Swahili peoples of Africa.


Selicia Allen

Special Collections Librarian/University Archivist


New Collection Available!

June 21, 2016

Gordon Blaine Hancock (1884-1970)

There had been many African American civil rights activists who stood against the injustices and segregation of the African Americans in society. One of the trailblazers in the struggle and on whose shoulders the likes of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Rosa Parks stood to further champion the cause is Gordon Blaine Hancock (1884-1970).  He was a southern black leader who emerged between Booker T. Washington and the rise of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is this great man’s collection I was fortunate to process during my internship in summer 2016 at the Archives and Special Collections Department of the Virginia Union University, Richmond VA.

Hancock was born June 23 1884, in Greenwood County, South Carolina. He was an educator, journalist, civil rights activist and clergyman. He studied Theology, Economics and Sociology. He was a professor of Economics and Sociology at Virginia Union University in Richmond and a leading spokesman for African American equality in the generation before the civil rights movement.

The bulk of the collections consist of laminated newspaper clippings from Hancock’s weekly syndicated news column “Between the Lines,” which he wrote for the Associated Negro Press from 1928 to 1965. The column appeared in 114 black newspapers throughout the United States. The articles chiefly articulate the concerns of blacks in American society in the areas of politics, desegregation, economics, and black leadership, though a few relate to broader social and political issues.

He was a co-founder of the movement that established the Southern Regional Council Inc. in 1944 and so the collection contains the audit report and annual report from 1967 to 1968 and also Tuskegee Institute from 1971 to 1972.

The Hancock collection also includes teaching materials; course outlines and teaching notes from Virginia Union University in the early 1950s. His course in race relations at Virginia Union was believed to be the first in the country.

He retired in 1963 as pastor of the Moore Street Baptist Church, Richmond VA after 38 years of dedicated service.

Hancock’s dedicated fight against segregation in all forms cannot be overemphasized. This was tangible in his collection. He lived and breathed racial equality for the black man.

I must admit that processing this collection has been a learning experience for me. One of my greatest takeaways from this revered man’s life is his saying “the struggle to get an education was the best part of my education.” He understood the relevance of education since he was himself an educator and also climbed to the highest pinnacle of the educational ladder. He was conferred L.H.D in 1969 by Colgate University, Hamilton, New York. Gordon Blaine Hancock died in Richmond on July 24, 1970.

I hope you would come by to view and use this and other collections that we hold.

Pearl Adzei-Stonnes                                                                                                                                        

 Intern (Summer 2016)                                                                                                                          

Virginia Union University, Richmond VA


A Celebrated Sportsman

June 21, 2016

Henry Boyd Hucles Jr. (1897-1979)

One of the two collections I worked on as part of my summer 2016 practicum in the Archives and Special Collections department of Virginia Union University is Henry Boyd Hucles Jr. He was born November 11, 1897, in Petersburg, VA.  He was an American football, baseball and basketball coach and college athletics administrator. He studied Physics at Virginia Union University with honors and also earned All-American honors as a quarterback for the Virginia Union University football team. He became player-coach of the Panthers when he was a senior. He was the first student athlete to become a coach at Virginia Union University and also the first head football coach at Prairie View A&M University. In 1950 he earned MSc. from Springfield College, Massachusetts.

As I began work on Hucles collection I never imagined how much of an impression it could make on my life. His collection consistently reveals his personality. His career as a sportsman was translated in his daily life. He was a disciplined and organized person. This can be seen in the personal diaries he kept between 1926 and 1963. He was affable and sociable. The many photographs from various events he attended attest to it. His selfless service to the community was above par. He committed himself to serving others. His collection includes certificates of recognition from the American Red Cross and also from VUU Alumni Association. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Richmond Coliseum; therefore the collection contains a proposal document for the establishment of Richmond Coliseum in 1966 and a report from Coliseum Committee to Richmond City Council in 1965. He also served on committees to hire candidates for employment, hence the individual resumes to Coliseum Committee for employment in 1968.

He invested so much into VUU athletics that his name cannot go unmentioned in the history of VUU. His 50-year involvement with VUU athletics and his invaluable contribution to Prairie View University athletics earned him the induction into the Prairie View A & M Hall of Fame in 1987, the VUU Hall of Fame in 1988, and the CIAA Hall of Fame in 2001.

His endearment to others showed through the many congratulatory notes he received from people of all walks of life upon his retirement that were positively impacted by his life. This is revealed in the many congratulatory notes the collection contains.

Processing this collection has truly been a valuable experience for me. My greatest takeaway from this celebrated athlete’s life is captured in one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s sayings, “do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Henry Boyd Hucles Jr. had indeed left trails that are indelible. He died on  September 10, 1979 at Brooklyn, New York.

Come visit us and check out this and many other collections that we have.

Pearl Adzei-Stonnes

Intern (Summer 2016)

Virginia Union University, Richmond VA

Coming Soon!

September 20, 2011